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Episode Summary

Scott Cytron of Cytron and Company sits down with Dawn Brolin to chat about how he went from struggling to find work as a writer shortly after college, to now owning a successful PR company that’s been in business for over 26 years. Listen now to find out how Scott finds motivation, how important networking is for your business, and how doing what you love can bring you more joy in both your professional and personal life.

Show Notes

Scott’s Introduction

Scott Cytron discusses his early beginnings as a Journalism major at the University of Missouri, and how he struggled to find work shortly after graduating. Scott talks about how difficult the job market was at the time, and how even after countless interviews, he was not finding any work. He then started working as a volunteer writer for United Way, and how even though he was not making any money, this allowed him to gain the networking skills that he would use in the future. Because of his work with United Way, he eventually landed a job with the American Red Cross.

And yeah, I mean, it was like, joke pay, but it was a job and I was glad to have it.” Scott says in reference to how much he made at his first job. 

Scott also shares how he found his way into the accounting industry; he was recruited for a position at the Texas Society of CPAs, a position he held for 9 years. 

Being Laid off and Starting His Own Company

Scott shares that he was laid off from his position, and talks about the grief he struggled with following the lay off.

Shortly thereafter, he was contacted by a few vendors he worked with while he was at the CPA society. He was asked to teach the sales people how non-profits thought and operated so they could sell more affinity cards. With Scott’s experience working with nonprofits, this ended up being a great gig for him, and with more vendors starting to contact him, this eventually led him to start his own business.

Importance of Networking

Scott then shares how important networking was when he started his business.

“And one thing led to another and I networked. I really, I let absolutely everybody I know, I told everybody, I know what I wanted to do, and what I was doing.” Scott shares. 

Dawn agrees and says networking is key when trying to gain clients and being “loud and proud” about what you do will help you reach more people who are in need of your services.

Scott also shares how as a business owner or accounting professional, you can always be doing something to increase your reach with new clients. He encourages people to take their clients out to lunch, schedule “coffee talks,” and how developing these relationships can lead to not only more work in general, but meaningful work as well.

Keeping The Client and Yourself Happy 

Scott and Dawn also share how important it is to maintain a good relationship with your clients, and while it’s important to make them happy, it’s also important that they make you happy.

“And I at this point, if I’m not having fun, or Brian isn’t having fun working…I’d rather go do something else. Yeah, because life is too short,” shares Scott. 

Scott then shares about how important it is to maintain integrity and honesty with your clients, and says,

“My best day is when a client will call me up… and say, ‘I’ve got a problem. Can you help me fix it?’ Because to me that says you totally believe in my integrity.”


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Dawn Brolin 0:05
Hi, I’m Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator for accounting professionals.

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If you know anything about writing articles or information about accounting Scott’s your guy, he just that’s what you do. Scott, you write and you do amazing things. So hey, everybody, welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m here today, really excited about our guest today, Scott Cytron. He is an amazing writer, he puts the junky words that I throw to him. And he makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about. And so I love working with Scott and work with him for a long time if you know, he writes, you know, all of the Intuit articles, but he does so much more than that. And we’re going to get into that today. So Scott, thank you so much for coming on today.

Scott Cytron 2:28
Well, thanks for having me.

Dawn Brolin 2:30
You know, I thought about this when I saw you on the schedule, and I said, we don’t know anything about Scott. He’s like in the background all the time doing writing and stuff like that. It’s just your articles, and your information is so phenomenal. But we don’t know about Scott himself. And so I was like, we’re gonna get to know Scott on this episode of the podcast today because I think that, like it’s so much more cool to read an article when you learn a little bit about the guy who’s right now. Right So, Scott, we’re gonna talk about your history in the marketing world, where you came from, where you were motivated in a certain way to get yourself to go out and start your own prep your own business and for writing so tell us who you are. What do you do what’s going on? You got a fractured foot what else is happening? Yeah, I

Scott Cytron 3:19
Yeah I have a fractured foot, yeah, that’s been a lot of fun or not. Yeah, and I’m usually used to you know, being really active like exercising and and you know, not not running but like doing your swimming and walking and all that and it’s been it’s been a journey but I got out of the booth this morning. So life is good. Finally out of the blue so now…

Dawn Brolin 3:43
You can itch, well the boot you could take off to itch, but…

Scott Cytron 3:47
Yeah, yeah, at least I didn’t have a cast that’s for sure. No, I It’s interesting career if he would said to me years and years ago when I started my career that I was going to be doing this I would have absolutely laughed in your face because I was like what is that I don’t even know what the heck that is. You know I I went to journalism school actually have a journalism degree from University of Missouri which is still the number one top school in the nation for journalism and ere we go numbers and football sucks though the basketball student okay but football is not great. Yeah, but I you know, I knew I always wanted to write I was a very good writer in high school. I loved writing you know, the remember the old blue books I don’t know if the students still right in blue books or not. They probably type it online now like for…

Dawn Brolin 4:37
Well, are they blue? Are they the black with the white? They look like cows.

Scott Cytron 4:40
I could if if right took a class and the professor said, I need you to write a, fill up your blue book about this topic. I can actually sit down there and write extemporaneously for hours about that topic, which was, I thought a real gift that I had, I didn’t know anything about anything else. I knew how to write. So I pursued journalism and graduated with a degree and a Bachelor of journalism with a specialty in magazine. And I was going to be a magazine editor when I graduated, okay. And I decided I want to eat. So, because eating is a good thing. So, I went to where I actually went into PR and kind of stumbled into it. I mean, they had one PR class at Missouri. And it was like this joke class, like you took it, if you couldn’t make it at anything else, this was way back. And now, you know, of course, it’s a very respected thing. But back then, you know, I, I had this, my mother refer refer to that as my interview suit, I had this blue pinstripe suit, that it was on and off my body three times a day. And of course, I could never gang the interviews. They were like back to back. They were always like, early morning, get home, take the suit off, put it back on, go back out. I was getting lots of interviews, but no bites. Because the job market this was, I’m telling you, it was the early 80s. The job market was pretty tight. All over was tied, and couldn’t find a job. And so I was active in a communicators organization at the time, which is still around. It’s an international group. And I went to a couple meetings and met this man he was with he worked for the United Way. And he said to me, why don’t you come see me United Way their office was downtown. He said, Are you interested in doing some volunteer work? I was like, Well, yeah, I got nothing else going on. He said, This could lead to something if you came and like showed your face got to know some people. In other words, network when I didn’t, you know, you’re not taugh in College how to network. I mean, nobody says, you know, this is what you need to do to find a job. And sure enough, I went down and volunteered my time writing articles for some of the agencies that belong to United Way and my mother and father, thought I was absolutely nuts. I mean, they were like, Why are you spending your time volunteering, when you should be out interviewing. It’s like, well, this is what I’m doing. So shut up. This is what I’ve got going on. Sure enough, it led to my first job, which was with the American Red Cross, they, the fellow I worked with the United Way knew there was an opening. And he said, go interview. Here’s the name of the number of the person need to call, got the job. And I was there about a year and thought, Well, okay, this is interesting. I was making $12,000 a year. Oh, wow. Wait a minute. Now, it turned out after taxes to be $765 a month. That was 300. And whatever it was $332 a check. And I would sit there all the time going. Okay, this is how much I have coming in. These are my bills. Do I really have enough to pay my bills? And yeah, I mean, it was like, joke pay, but job and I was glad to have it. And that led to some other things. So basically, basically, I I stayed in PR, I studied nonprofit PR and went from there. Actually, I went from there to an agency that recruited me fly knew we had a PR agency. He said, Why don’t you come work with us. I was there about a year and a half decided, okay, the PR world is I guess it’s for me, I’m going to stick with this. But I really wanted to do content. I really wanted to do more content. I was doing a lot of press releases, I was doing a lot of media contact. But I really enjoyed writing. So I was kind of the writer in the agency was a small agency at the time. Now it’s still around much larger. But I actually went back in a nonprofit, which was kind of unheard of I went back and worked for big brothers and sisters, and learned about it because I was in charge of fundraising. And really wanted to learn how to raise money in a nonprofit, and eventually led actually to a position a United Way. And from there I was recruited with from a woman who used to work there to the Texas Society of CPAs. So that’s how, when people say, “What’s your accounting background?” Well, I worked there for nine years. And I was head of all the internal communications the member communications, membership programs and learned just a heck of a lot about a lot of stuff and met some really great people. I liaised like I was head of the volunteer groups for the map, which was you know, management and accounting practice. Yeah. So they were all the public practitioner, and I still actually keep in touch with a few of those people.

Dawn Brolin 9:42
Oh, that’s cool.

Scott Cytron 9:43
Yeah. So I was. I was there for about nine years and then I was the one that thought I’d never be laid off. I was like, my job is solid. Hey, look at me. I’m tougher than this. I got laid off. laid off because that was one of the higher salaries and they said, you know, we love you, but we don’t want you anymore. And I, I cried.

Dawn Brolin 10:08

Scott Cytron 10:09
I cried for a couple weeks. It was right when Rosie O’Donnell Show was on the afternoon, like when she was starting her show, so I can see all the Rosie O’Donnell Show.

Dawn Brolin 10:17
Yeah! (laughs)

Scott Cytron 10:19
My son was five at the time. And I, you know, like I had to do something to earn money. And they gave me a little bit of severance they gave me they like they placed me with one of those agencies, which where they teach you how to find a job, rewrite your resume. I did all that. But what happened to me was, you talk about inspiration about being motivated.

Dawn Brolin 10:42

Scott Cytron 10:42
What happened was, I was contacted by a couple of vendors that I worked with while I was at the CPA society, because I headed up the member affinity program, which was the program like the credit card program for the members, the banking, the mortgage brokers, all the member benefits. I was contacted by this company, that was the financial arm of MBNA, America, which is now Bank of America more Bank of America years ago. They were interested in getting into the AICPA to switch them from first USA to MBNA. America, okay, they knew that I people involved, but trying to make this long story shorter, they brought me up to Boston once a week for six months. And they want me to teach the salespeople how nonprofits thought and operated. So they can sell more affinity car. So it was kind of the sweet little gig that I started out with, I was like, Well, if I can do this, maybe I can continue to do my own thing. And I got a call from another vendor I used to work with, I’m the one that set up the original website for the CPA society. So I got called by that company which was out of Seattle. And then one thing led to another. And I ended up really trying to make a go of it. I thought, well, that was in like November. And I thought if I could just be busy through the spring and just pay bills. Yeah, I’ll give the no and I always wanted to start my own thing I really did. I actually had a dream because I worked so much a nonprofit to actually do an agency a PR agency, that was only nonprofit clients, and I got some real pop back. But I said, you know, you’re going to have to have a certain number of clients to make that work because nonprofits couldn’t pay as much as for profit clients. And that’s true. That’s very, very true. So I ended up going out on my own. And one thing led to another and I networked I really, I led absolutely everybody I know, I told everybody, I know what I wanted to do what I was doing. That was during the age of dial up, I know I’m dating myself, but dial up computers, I typed out my, my letters on a typewriter, I mailed them every day to people. This is what I’m doing this what I want to do, and one thing led to another and you know, now 20, almost 26 years later, I’ve still got my own business.

Dawn Brolin 13:11
You know, and I love that because I think a lot of times people will ask and you see it over on social media all the time in a lot of the various groups, and I’m gonna log the accounting groups, and you watch them, they’re like, how do I get clients? How do I, you know, grow my practice? How do I do? And it’s not any different than what you did? Really, it’s like, be loud and proud about what you do get a little more specific, right? You don’t want to be just, oh, I’m an accountant. Well, you know, what? Accounts are a lot like attorneys. There’s very different types of accounting services that are provided. Attorneys, you know, their bankruptcy attorneys or their family attorneys. Usually family attorneys aren’t doing bankruptcy at the same time. Usually, there’s different partners that are doing really focus things. That’s how you become the best. Like when you think about somebody who writes somebody that is out there in publications that is doing amazing writing, Scott Cytron’s at the top of listening accounting field period. Right. And so, and you did that, and you did that work, Scott, all yourself, man. Right. And your motivation, I think a lot of our motivation, I mean, you know, you got laid off, right at the end of the day. I’m not saying it’s bad to be an employee. That’s not what I’m saying. But you don’t hold your own fate in your own hands when you work for someone else. And if you have the drive, and the commitment, the passion, the focus, to go out there and do it. What you’re doing is exactly right. You’re out there you’re networking, you’re letting people know loud and proud this is what I’m doing. And one thing leads to another Oh yeah, you know what, oh, you need an article written call Scott mean he’s your guy that’s so and that’s how people will start to grow their practice and that’s what you’ve done for your business, is grow up.

Scott Cytron 14:51
That’s absolutely the case. And you know, I get kind of perturbed, well, I don’t get perturbed I get pissed off. Yeah. When I hear good I hear from an accountant or bookkeeper or anybody in the profession. Oh, I just don’t have enough work. I don’t have enough business like, well, you’re not trying hard enough. My God, look at the number of companies and businesses out there. When was the last time you’d network with somebody? Oh, right now Well, COVID is going on? I can’t possibly do that. Yeah, you can. I met a pro advisor, or I guess last year who, this was brilliant, she scheduled coffee talks. And it was a 15 minute thing. Yeah, schedule a coffee talk with me. And yeah, okay. We can’t, you know, there was a long time where we couldn’t see each other in person. But you could still waste a network and waste to get the word out about what you’re doing. But I completely agree when a when a person in PR and marketing communications calls me or sends me a note and says, I need, I need some referrals I need to network with you. I understand, you know, some people, can you help me out? Like, what do you what area do you want to work in? Oh, I do everything? Well, no, that doesn’t help me because I need to know what you either niche in. I people know, for me, I niche accounting and finance. Now we have other clients outside of that. And I tried really hard over the years to diversify. I did a lot of healthcare. Like when I started, I did accounting and finance and I actually did morphed into healthcare, and did a lot of that. And then did some B2C work. I did some work for Blockbuster in Pizza Hut and some really great fun projects. But I always said like, it was like the God Father, I got pulled back in. And around the seventh or eighth year, I thought, well, okay, I just, I’m gonna stick with this, but was with accounting and finance. But I still want to try to find gigs outside of that. And we do we have some, but you know, there’s a group of interesting, there’s a, there’s like a handful of us across the nation. That niche in this area, and we all know each other, and we actually exchange work.

Dawn Brolin 16:55
Yes, absolutely.

Scott Cytron 16:56
Which is great. You know, if you know, Betty can’t do something, she’ll say, Scott, can you pick this up, or, you know, whatever it is, or they’ll refer what we’ve heard each other. And that’s what makes it really fun. You know, so no, we trust each other enough to get the job done. But we’re also great to work with, you know, we love we love what we do.

Dawn Brolin 17:15
Yeah, and that’s important. I mean you could to do for the rest of your life, basically, You should probably find, I was telling kids you’re like I work with, you know, I teach at the local university, I’m not right now because of the book. And I’ve got too much going on. So I’m not doing it this semester. But it’s like, I try to tell the kids like, listen, you’re going to work for forever, okay? So I encourage you, number one, find something that you’re good at, but you’ve got to enjoy it, because it’s a long road, there’s gonna be ups and downs, and sideways and backwards and all this stuff. And you’ve got to be able to get up every single morning and know why you’re doing it. And remembering that you do love it. And, you know, I want to switch a little bit of gears in that conversation about the industry right now. Now, you obviously you see it from a 30,000 foot view, and sometimes a 10,000 foot view, you know, you’re you can sometimes just have a broad conversation or write an article that’s a little bit more general in nature, or you may jump into some more deeper scenarios. So are you You know, as far as the practitioners out there, are you seeing what I’m seeing in this really tough 18 months, almost coming on two years now of, of really, in the accounting industry, specifically, where people are just struggling. I you know, and I don’t know about you, but I think sometimes it’s the people who don’t have systems and processes in place, that are able to handle either volume, or like we were talking about just being able to do that coffee time, coffee talk and just being able to, like, you’re gonna have to bring yourself into this into this timeframe of technology, I think is maybe one day is right.

Scott Cytron 18:45
I think that’s absolutely right. And yeah, yeah, you know, when you own your own business, you’re your own helpdesk. Yes. Your own IT , support your own helpdesk. Yeah, I think what’s interesting about about that kind of conversation about accountants and bookkeepers, networking is, most of the ones I know, you definitely excluded. You’re not in this camp at all. They’re afraid to ask for referral. They’re afraid to ask their clients for referral. I had this one client who was a Sage provider, they did manage services through Sage, and they had a very successful business. And they were like, well, we don’t seem to be getting any new business. I said, well, I said to the owner because I work directly with the owner. But when was the last time, this is why before COVID, I said, When was the last time you took a client to lunch? Oh, I don’t know. I don’t you know, I don’t really do that. Or do you go to lunch every day, knowing that he did? Well, yes. I said, so why don’t why don’t you take your best clients to lunch, make a rule that you don’t talk about busniess, and but you talk about not, not your business, but just business in general? How you can help each other out? Oh, I don’t have time for that. Right? But you go to lunch every day. He goes I get your point. But he said I’m not going to go do that. I’m like Why are you so afraid to ask a client for referral? What are you afraid they’ll say to you? You’re being too forward? I said they need referrals from you just like you need referrals from them exact. So why don’t you you’ve got a chemical company you’re representing, you’re doing the books for chances are they know other people, maybe in similar industries that are competitive, or whatever the case is, you know, ask, ask for help and helped them.

Dawn Brolin 20:29
Exactly. And, you know, I also some of the other things I think of is, you know, if I get a particular client that I’m like, Yeah, you know what, I’m not really your fit, but I know somebody who is, right, or if someone that comes to me that is predominantly Spanish speaking, I know exactly who I’m referring them to. And that’s because Mariette and Hector Garcia, you know, those guys are all out there, loud and proud about what they’re doing from a bilingual perspective. You know what, that helps me? Because, you know, I just had a client this morning even emailed me, she’s like, I’m in New Jersey, we have called, she actually a new client. She called me last week, we had a nice phone call. And this morning, she email she said, Listen, I’m from New Jersey, I had an accountant from New York, and I felt like I never could get in touch with him, or I couldn’t go to his office, blah, blah, blah. And I said to her, I said, Well, Jackie, here’s the deal, kid. Listen, if you want somebody local, just say the word. I’m sure I can find you somebody in New Jersey, that would love to be working with you, whatever. I said, but listen, at the end of the day, I’ve got Tracy in my office, who you if you call our office, if she is working with she, you know, sometimes she goes on vacation whenever she’s really kind of part time. If If she calls you she doesn’t answer that phone call, I promise you within 24 hours, you will get a call back, because that’s just the way she rolls, right? And so what I said to her, I said, Hey, if you want some from New Jersey, I’m happy to refer you like, I want what’s best for the client. Because it’s like happy wife happy life. It’s happy client happy business. Like, you know, I don’t want upset clients. I don’t want those people. So if I feel like, you know, this isn’t a fit for me, you know.

Scott Cytron 22:05
But you know, at the same time, like I’ve had cases, like locally, I’ll give you an example. I worked with a financial management company here. For we worked together 12 years. And the owner was a heck of a nice guy, the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. If you said, Bill, give me the shirt off your back, he would take it off and give it to you. I was at his wedding. I mean, that’s how that’s what a great relationship. Yeah, I know. That’s what a great relationship, we had. This PR I did his newsletter articles, whatever. And, but he could not make a decision to save his life, he could not make a decision. He managed, he wouldn’t work with anybody unless they had more than $2 million in assets. I mean, that was his sea level practice. So when he was very good at it, but he couldn’t make a decision. And I finally, you know, like, probably the fifth or sixth year like this is all like this is not working? Well, I really tried to resign twice. He kept throwing more money at me. And I was like, okay, well, I guess I’ll continue. And finally, the third time I just said, Bill, you’ve got to go find this somewhere else. I said, I’m sorry. But why would you pay me? You know, like, he was a happy client. But sure, I wasn’t happy working with him, because I didn’t feel like I was helping him. You know, and I feel like in the, in the accounting profession is kind of the same thing. Why would you continue working with a client, you don’t think you’re helping just to make the money? You know, and, and to me, it’s the whole story. It’s the whole advisory services conversation that some accountants still cannot wrap their arms around, they cannot figure out like, oh, you know, they can look at the tax return and figure out that they have stocks, they have other assets they have. I don’t, you could look the return. I don’t know, you know, I’m not a tax guy. But I know how to do that. And to have that conversation with your client, I don’t know if they’re afraid that the client will leave them because it’s going to cost them more money. But you know, if I had a client that I knew, had this issue, I would certainly bring it up. And that’s where you make your clients happy. Like you want to, but we do in PR we say we anticipate what you’re going to need before you need it. That’s that’s the whole crux in a nutshell is we want to make we want we want to know what you need before you realize you need it. And that’s that’s where we have happy clients and communications with clients is key like they you know, the worst thing I would want to happen at the end of the month is for them to get my invoice and say what did he do for that? Well, no, that never happened. Because we’re constantly in touch. We’re constantly you know, doing stuff back and forth. They know exactly what’s going on. So…

Dawn Brolin 24:56
I love that conversation about like you’re saying like keeping a client, like you were saying that just because you’re you’re making money from them. And that’s great. Sometimes it isn’t the best fit I, we had a client just here in the last few months he had whatever issues he had, and we just it was the last straw, we were making a lot of money. It was a great project, it was a fun project. But we were just, we just got to the point where we’re gonna keep this guy, we’re gonna actually be able to intercept this audit was a criminal audit, we had all the i’s dotted T’s crossed, he had his record keeping was terrible, his prior account just really did a major disservice. So we were going to go after the, ENO, for that, like, we had this whole plan, but he just became like, he was mean. And a girl on my staff was kind of mostly dealing with them. And, you know, she called me at one point, she’s pretty tough. And she was like, I just don’t know if I can handle this anymore. I said, then that’s the end of it, we’re done. And so I fired the client, I was like, I don’t need to, I don’t want to make money off those people. And then on the other flip side, I have one of my best friend’s real really great, another couple that my husband I’ve been friends with were that the God daughters, one of his godparents, and one of his daughters. Just we love Him. And so what we he owns his own security system business. And we would chase him and chase and chase him for information. And it was like, just became painful. So finally, his kid, actually my goddaughter graduated from college with an accounting degree. And I said, Kyle, your daughter is doing your accounting she’s doing all your sales tax returns, go figure out your tax return, because we’re done. Like, it wasn’t even it was about just, this isn’t worth it. And you know, we’re friends, and I would love to help my friends, but not at my, you know, at my cost, if you will, of having to chase them constantly. And you know, at that point, where’s the value anyway? There isn’t any.

Scott Cytron 26:42
The one thing, the one thing I dread is firing clients, and I’ve had to do it. Luckily, I’ve never been fired by a client. But I’ve had a power plant. And I mean, the financial planners, one example. But you know, there have been other examples. And I at this point, if I’m not having fun, or Brian isn’t having fun working, you know, working on this, my son works with me, as you know, if we’re not having fun. I’d rather go flip burgers at the Burger King. Well, hopefully not there. But you know what I mean? I do, I’d rather go do something else. Yeah, because life is too short. And, you know, when a client gets ornery with me, or starts questioning my integrity, we can have a conversation about absolutely, I’ve got a very thick skin. But you know, at the end of the day, is this really worth it? And it’s it’s a tough thing, because, you know, I mean, when I first started my business, it was absolutely all about the money. I had to make money. I mean, let’s just face it, I had to do it. And then on the seventh, eighth, ninth year, I was like, okay, it’s less about the money and more about the quality of the work. Unfortunately, I’m not…

Dawn Brolin 27:53

Scott Cytron 27:53
Yeah, it’s now all about the work. And I, you know, I feel like the the pay is going to be there, the money is going to be there, hopefully. And will last I’ve been very fortunate people have been incredibly kind to me, over the years and generous. And, you know, I know we work hard for what we do. But at the same time, I never, never think that something’s an absolute, I absolutely am grateful for everything we get. But sometimes you have to fire a client and that’s not easy. I always feel like, Oh, my God, this whole door is going to shut and not open. And the moment you do it, you know, as a business owner, like this weight comes off of you. And a window opens and something else happens. It always works like that. I don’t know why, I don’t know if that’s fate, I don’t know what it is. But it’s just weird.

Dawn Brolin 28:41
Well, and I think one of the things that I want to Well, this is going to be the kind of the last week well, we usually go 25 minutes or so. So we’ll but I want to finish with this part. Because you know, you submitted we always have people submit to us some information so that I don’t, you know, ask you questions that make no sense to you. But the I think the most impressive thing that I read about kind of your art are written conversation about what you do, why you do it, what you’re motivated for, and what makes you happy. And the number one word that I that just pulls right out is honesty. And I think at the end of the day, if you can be honest with yourself, and be able to say, and there are situations where I’ve seen practitioners work, and it’s garbage. I’ve seen it. I’m like, How is this client paying $65,000 in self employment tax? Why are they not an S-Corp? Like, I look at this stuff, and I’m like, I wonder because I don’t know, how do you look in the mirror or send an invoice to a client and take their money when you did such bad work? Now I will say for myself even if I make mistakes or I you know I dropped the ball on something. It will not cost the client anything because that’s my integrity, my ethics and my honesty that I know I jacked it up. It’s my fault. And so I don’t feel comfortable and I can’t sleep at night, if I know that I’ve done dishonest, right. And so I know honesty for you is one of your biggest things. And I agree with you and you can’t look yourself in the mirror. Or you know, what’s worse is if you can, and you’re being dishonest, that’s even worse. But tell tell me about that honesty thing, because I really, that really spoke to me.

Scott Cytron 30:21
Well, I just feel like you have to be genuine. I mean, you can’t, people are gonna play games are going to play games until the world is over, which hopefully, isn’t anytime soon. But you have to have integrity and honesty. And I think along with incomes trust. And I will tell you, you know, I always ask I ask a client two things. I asked them if they’d rather be rich or famous. Because I don’t whenever I have a new client, I say what would you rather be rich or famous? Or what do you mean? What do you mean by that? I said, Okay, if you want to be rich, it’s all about PR is all about getting your company’s name in the paper. If you want to be famous, it’s about getting your name in the paper, or the media, whatever it is, but that’s always a good question. The second is, you know, just you want to at the end of the day, you want to absolutely be honest with what you’re doing. I have done crisis communications in my time, and which, which is basically if a client was imperil, for some reason, let’s say they had somebody on their staff that embezzled money or somebody went to jail, or there was really a big problem like that, I’ve done that kind of work. I now outsource that, like if I have a client that has that, because there are people to do a way better than me. But I always say what, at the end of the day, my best day, I always say what is your best day? Like? What makes you the happiest? What is your best day? My best day is when a client will call me up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a client will call me up and say, I’ve got a problem. Can you help me fix it? Because to me that says you totally believe in my integrity. Now, you may not always take my advice, which is your deal, you know, and I’ll never tell somebody their baby’s ugly outright, probably sandwich that in something. But I always tell by clinets by saying, you know, and if you don’t feel like you’re going down a rabbit hole with something? I’ll let you know. Because why would you want to hear me say, oh, everything’s great. I want to be a yes, man. You know, what good does that do? Anybody? You know, we’ve had several recently, you know, like, with COVID, going on, we’ve had a couple of instances. And I’ll give them my opinion about what I feel like they should be doing and whether they again, whether they choose to follow it or not as their deal. I can’t control that narrative. But I know for my off, yeah, I can look in the mirror every day and say I really did the best I could.

Dawn Brolin 32:47
Yeah, and I think that that’s, you know, it’s that’s an amazing message. And I guess that would for me, that is what when I read the the information that you had sent over, and I’m just like, every bit of what it sounded like in what you wrote, and what you sent over was definitely coming from your heart. And you can, you can read the honesty, you know what I’m saying? And I think this episode is about honesty and integrity. And if you can be honest with yourself, and you have an integrity, things will always work out for you. Because you are being asked, like you said, is it fate? What is it when you close that door? And then another one, probably for open? In some cases? Right? And I think that comes down to at the end of the day that that ability to have that honesty, integrity, you’re trustworthy. People are comfortable around you because you, you know, you’re not sugarcoating things you’re telling them. And like you said, Let him take the information in and do what they wish with it. But you always know you’re giving the people I mean, you know, as an accountant, people always say, Well, what do you think? Can’t I you know, what if I did this, and can I do that? And I’m like, Okay, listen, I’m going to tell you what you should be doing. And then you’re going to go ahead and do it or you won’t do it. You know, Oh, should I go and buy this truck at year end, because I just want to reduce my expenses? I think that’s stupid. I think that that would do really need that. Like you need it. Like I’m always very open with them. Not gonna, I’m not gonna Yes, sir. them and be like, oh, yeah, that’d be awesome. We’ll get yourself a truck like, and you know, you’re on the phone. And you’re like, I just got to tell you, I just don’t think that’s the right answer. It could have been, it would be very easy to go. Oh, yeah, go and get it. No problem. We’ll just make sure you send me the paperwork, so I can get it into your books. Like, that’s too easy.

Scott Cytron 34:29
I love that.

Dawn Brolin 34:29
Right? And it’s like, I got to have that conversation with them.

Scott Cytron 34:34
Don’t you wish that they would teach this at school? Don’t you wish they would teach you something like, like, from an early age? Even like preschool. And I don’t know that they do. It’s been years since my son was in school, but I you know, I just don’t know. If it’s if that’s something that’s being taught. I you know, I’m afraid that’s probably not. I

Dawn Brolin 34:54
I mean, to think about, like a course on decision making. Yeah, right. Right. Like okay, you, we’re giving you information and you read the and then you interpret the information, and then you use it or lose it. And teaching them how to work through that would be really awesome. Maybe we can get, you know, they’re doing education reform, if we can slip that in somehow..

Scott Cytron 35:13
I’ll get it on the agenda, how’s that?

Dawn Brolin 35:17
On the agenda! Well, Scott Cytron. I really, I’m and I’m being as genuine as I am always very honest and open. And I wouldn’t say these boastful things about people if I didn’t believe them, but I’ve really appreciated you. You’ve helped me in my career tremendously. Just through the work we’ve done with Intuit, of course, with writing and different things that we’ve been doing. And I just want to thank you, from my side of the industry from from being the accounting side, you know, you’re you’re out there giving us the information that we need to make those good decisions. And I don’t know if anyone thanks you for that, you know, a check isn’t thanks enough for you. But I just personally have appreciation for what you’ve done for me. So I want to thank you for that.

Scott Cytron 35:55
That’s really, really good night. Like, that means more to me than I can tell you. Thank you.

Dawn Brolin 36:00
Oh, Scott. I mean, we really go way back, man, we really do. And, and I wouldn’t, you know, I want to have you on again, I’d love to talk more. You know, this, the DM Disruptions about just where I’m trying to disrupt the industry in a positive way. Right? So helping people to take like you’re saying, take the information on what you shouldn’t shouldn’t be doing as a practitioner, and interpreting it, but not just sitting there and thinking about it, but doing something about it. We want people to do things, right, we got Scaling New Heights coming up, don’t just go to a conference or watch a webinar to just be present. You know, just be there as a human. Be there with purpose. And then take whatever you learn, even if it’s just one thing, and make a change in your day in your life, and I promise you, your practice will change. And that’s what we’re trying to do. So, Scott, you’ve been awesome, and I appreciate you. And I’ll be looking for you if you’re if I see you as Scaling and be out the ball. I know you’ll be the slowest guy walking, but I’ll be able to find you I’m sure!

Scott Cytron 36:58
Thank you, I will.

Dawn Brolin 37:01
You take care and say hi to your son for me because I do remember meeting him I think it was at QuickBooks Connect event we sat together towards the front I think but I do remember him and I wish you the best and I know, I know We’ll be talking again soon.

Scott Cytron 37:14
Sounds good. Thank you!

Dawn Brolin 37:16
All right. Thanks everybody for listening to DM Disruption Dawn Brolin here with my man Scott Cytron love him. This episode is sponsored by ADP my favorite payroll processing company you know why cuz I don’t like process payroll. So Amen. For ADP. I just have to say that. Scott again. Thank you so much. You’re wonderful, and we’ll talk again soon. Sounds good. Thank you. Alright, take care. Bye. Bye, everybody.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Liscio’s Alison Ball joins Dawn Brolin to discuss how Liscio is your all in one solution for better communication with your clients, a hub to receive important tax documents, and a place to track all your messages and files in one place, all with top-notch cyber security! With more and more practitioners moving their firm to Liscio, listen now to see how they can help you and your clients work better together, and help achieve both of your goals easily and efficiently!

Get to know Alison:

Alison Ball is the Director of Marketing and Influencer Strategy for Liscio, Inc. She is passionate about helping firms to differentiate themselves by providing Client Experience 2.0TM to their clients. Before joining Liscio in August 2020, Alison spent 15 years leading accountant influencer programs at Intuit, and prior to that she was an accountant herself. In her spare time, she grows amazing backyard vegetables and loves hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area. She believes that life is too short to spend it with mean people, and any day she can help someone else be successful is a good day indeed.

What is Liscio?

Alison describes Liscio as “a collaborative environment for you and your team to work together along with your clients.” 

Liscio is an all in one communication platform for tax practitioners that makes communication between them and their clients incredibly easy. With both an app and browser based software, Liscio provides you with a messaging platform to communicate with your clients, and helps keep all the information they share with you in one place. They also make it easy for clients to share their tax documents with you, and even send reminders to your clients when they are behind on sending you important tax information.

Why Email Communication is Not Serving You

Alison and Dawn share their frustration when having to use email to communicate with their clients, and share how they have both been stuck digging through their inboxes to find the one piece of important information. 

When Liscio is implemented, you can completely avoid this, shares Alison. Liscio keeps all your messages and client documents in one portal, so you can access them from any place at any time! No more lost messages, and no more digging or sorting your inbox!

Liscio also offers integrations with your favorite apps such as QuickBooks Online, SmartVault, Adobe Sign, and more!

A Better Work Life Balance

Dawn and Alison share how many clients prefer to text their practitioners for information, rather than through email. Alison talks about how this can be a problem, and how texting can feel very invasive on the practitioner’s end, and make them feel rushed to answer their clients’ questions. 

With Liscio, clients can still have the convenience of contacting their practitioner directly through their phone, and practitioners can know that all of their client’s messages are already sorted, and will be easily accessible during working hours, rather than having to track the messages they receive while at the dinner table.

Learn more at


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Dawn Brolin 0:05
This episode of the DM Disruption is sponsored by Veem. Veem provides a convenient way to manage AR and AP was superior reporting, a mass pay option, payment tracker, invoice capture and more. Veeam also provides a start to finish approval process to minimize the risk of fraud, a common occurrence in business today. At the end of the day, Veem is an all in one business global payment solutions for clients of all sizes, visit them today at

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to the Designated Motivator, DM Disruption today and our podcast, we’re really excited today to have one of the greatest people I’ve known in the accounting industry for so so long is Alison ball. And many of you know, Alison, Alison is with Liscio, which is an application that is solving for pain points with your clients. And I think the message that Alison I want to bring to you all today is that we as the firm owners, and in the practitioners, and the technicians sometimes need to step back and think about what the client is experiencing. And we love to solve for ourselves because that’s natural, but we really want to make sure we’re keeping the client in the forefront of our mind. And in order to do that, and in order to be successful in that experience, we’ve got to have tools in place to keep that experience positive. So Alison, welcome back. We’ve had you on before, and you’re always a blessing.

Alison Ball 1:28
Thank you, Dawn, it’s just amazing to spend a few minutes here here with you and your audience. I loved how you introduced this this chat that we’re gonna have today, because I think accountants and bookkeepers are so heart led, that you know, because you can’t you join the profession, because you want to help your clients be more successful, right. But somewhere along the line, you know, somewhere along the line and get bogged down in this friction with you and your clients. And I hear people say, you know, well, I, I’d like to fire all my clients, or I, you know, this is the year I’m gonna make, make my clients, you know, get their documents on time. Or, you know, you know, this is the year that I get to do things differently somehow, and then get we never do. And we endure these busy seasons, right? These busier seasons, and the stress mounts and things. And I think the reason I found Licio so incredibly fascinating is that Chris has uncovered a, a solution to a problem that many people just don’t even know exists. And that’s how they’re how they are allowing their clients or how they’re asking their clients to work with their firm in a digital fashion. So that’s what I’m really fascinated about. And that’s what I want to talk about today is how if you nail that, if you remove that friction, how all boats can rise?

Dawn Brolin 2:53
Absolutely. And, and I know obviously, as a practitioner, I hear from let’s say, even new clients that are referred over to us. We’re listening to them as they, you know, well, why did you and I asked the question, I think it’s a great question to ask a new client. Why did you switch to me? Like, why were you looking for another accountant? And I would, I would probably, I could say 85 to 90% is communication. Yeah, there’s a lack of communication. And I just got a new client from New Jersey who was like, you know, you’re in Connecticut, I’m in New Jersey, how are we going to communicate? And that was my biggest problem with my prior account, and I couldn’t get a hold of them. And, and certainly, we can go down the email road, Allison. We can talk about emails, because emails are the death of everybody. Right? And it’s, it’s really wasted time, no value there. And there. They are a standalone type of communication, we need a one face one stop one way to communicate with the clients. And that’s why we chose Liscio, we needed to communicate with the clients. And I and that said this before, they love it. It’s so easy for them to use. They’re all on cell phones. I think I have two clients with Star Trek phones, I call it their the flip, they still may text by hitting, you know, to get to see, to get three times. That’s that’s not the norm. And so I think a lot of times and I know people, oh, well, people aren’t going to want to add another app to their phone. People have a bazillion apps on their phone, they can’t even find half of them. They don’t know to put them in folders and things like that. Right. So that assumption, I think is a challenge for practitioners. Yeah,

Alison Ball 4:31
I think like Well, let’s start with the email thing because I think most people think of email as the best way to communicate. And it certainly is easy in the moment. You can type an email and kind of forget about it. But what you have to understand is what is the downstream effect of that email. So if I send an email, let’s pretend you’re my client. If I send an email to you with a long list of documents and a link to my portal because I want you to send them securely and you get this on you’re probably going to get it on your phone. You are probably nowhere near a scanner. And you’re in, you’re busy, you’re in the middle of your busy day. So what happens to that email, you open it, you go, Oh, Alison wants something, okay. And you immediately close it, you probably mark it unread. And then your day takes over and it goes down, down, down, down, down into the inbox, right? Now, eventually now, okay, then Dawn saying, hey, Alison didn’t send her stuff. Send me another email. Same thing happens. Oh my gosh, don’t you know now Tracy’s asking you “Hey, hey, Dawn, Alison didn’t send her stuff.” So, okay, now you got Tracy on you. So then Tracy starts emailing me. Okay, now Don and Tracy can’t see inside each other’s inboxes. Right? And so then okay, then I answer one of them. One of those emails that got sent, right. And so then I’m, and maybe I’ve got some questions in my email. And so everything is all like, and then there’s no way for your team to see in each other’s inboxes the client gets lost, they lose the string, they can understand what they’re doing. So what Chris created with Liscio, Chris and Sekhar the two co founders is a system of it’s it’s a collaborative environment for you and your team to work together along with your clients. And so what happens is that the client is, you know, at the closest analogy I have done is the way that you work with your online bank. Right? When you go to send a document to your bank, what do you do you just snap the picture, but you send it like your deposit a check, right? Liscio is that easy. So you just so you said maybe clients don’t want to put an app on their phone. Cool thing is they don’t have to just like a bank, they can log into their browser, right? But the magic happens when you bring everybody into that same quiet space. There’s no email, strings, there’s nothing, there’s no waiting through anything, the staff can see everything for that one client. So you and Tracy can see everything that you need from me. And it’s and it’s all like there. And then the system auto reminds if I owe you something, the system auto reminds so magic happens, and I think what’s really interesting is is that people need to walk in their clients shoes to understand what the experience is. And I just don’t think that email and the link to a portal is making anybody’s firm, more efficient, move faster or look good. And so I’m on a mission to change that.

Dawn Brolin 7:33
Absolutely. I wouldn’t even take it a step further. So we’re emails Absolutely, they those numbers, you know, on the daily they start dropping down no matter how much you make it be, you know, tag this to junk email, you don’t want to look at it. I find not only emails which I can’t stand emails more, which even becomes more of a problem. Texting. Oh, now we’ve talked about texting. Oh, yeah. The texting. The texting has turned into email, honestly. Yeah. And people are goosebumps talking about it, but it’s demanding.

Alison Ball 8:07
But it’s demanding, it’s it’s like it’s like it’s like email in your face. It’s like, Oh, my God, I’m gonna get, where’s my camera? I’m gonna get you right here in the face, like poke in the eyes email.

Dawn Brolin 8:17
And you know what? It’s like, okay, you text me. If I’ve read it, you don’t want to read it, the text. And now that text from somebody ends up over the weekend in 20th position. And I’ve replied to them, because I know that like you said, it’s in my face. And they want an instant reply. I go, but what…

Alison Ball 8:36
Which we love being interrupted and family dinners, and yeah, we’d love that. Right.

Dawn Brolin 8:41
Love that. And so, you know, clients expect to be able to text you. And they in so I actually this phone right here, this is my personal cell phone. Now only the special get this phone number, because this is my this is my personal phone, I have a phone in that office over there. That’s the business phone. And that does not come out of the office. That’s for authorization codes, that’s protected from clients. Because and I don’t give this to out to my clients. I have some friends, obviously, our clients by telling them if you text the personal phone number, you have been voted off the island. Oh, can note you’re gone, you’re out of here. So what Liscio will do for you and like like Alison was saying, it only has the important information in there. So you’re not having to, you know, sort through emails or go back to your text and go scrolling and looking for all the work you just promised you would do over the weekend. And you’re you know, now it’s Monday and you’re like, oh, did I text somebody over the weekend it was you know, football, whatever. So when having things in one place, you’re going to minimize that I just call it wasted time.

Alison Ball 9:53
A tremendous amount of wasted time to look for things and to search for things and to look across platforms. And the other thing Don is I don’t know about your clients, but I hear frequently from practitioners that their clients will text them documents, pictures of documents. Now, yes. Now, if you have a client who is texting you, and especially those that are taking photos of documents and attaching them to a text, they’re giving you a really clear message that they want to work with you using their phone. It is the clearest message you could have. So those clients that are texting you, if you move them off text, and you move them on to Liscio, they will be delighted. And your communications with them. And the way that you work together with that client will be elevated 100x And B, it’s so much better, because the client will be like, Okay, I have one place, oh, if I need done, I go here, right here, right here on my phone. And and again, people don’t have to use the phone app, they that’s that’s it’s just like dealing with your bank, you can use the browser or, or your phone. But we’ve found that that is a really big, a really big thing. And then what happens is when you’re getting those documents quickly, and your team is on the same page, and everybody can see what’s happening with that client, all those communications, the documents, the signatures, what else we talked about the tasks, the all the things that have to do with the with the tooing and froing, between your firm and your client. Everyone can can move faster. And your work gets more accurate. And and all these missteps that sometimes happen. Like you never have to worry about a foot refer as a firm owner about being blindsided by something. Because maybe you were out of the loop out of the communication loop because a staff member was dealing with them, and maybe they didn’t deal with them in the right way or, or they said something that wasn’t communicated back to you. And then you had a misstep, you never get those blind sides never happens. Because anybody can go in and review the history of it. Right, of that client?

Dawn Brolin 11:59
Definitely. And I think another kind of component that we don’t I don’t think we really think about all the time is that everything being in that one place, having all the firm have that access, eliminating emails, because people this is one thing that people don’t think about either. And that’s what this whole conversation is about is the client side of it. And on the client side, so many clients, especially if you’re dealing with individual tax clients, they don’t live on their email.

Alison Ball 12:26
No, they’re they’re doing their businesses, right. They’re running their businesses.

Dawn Brolin 12:30
And so you know, we happen to sit at a computer all day. So we have I’ll call it just carte blanche access to emails. But our clients don’t my contractors aren’t going home at night sitting down and reading my email with my questions. But if I text them throughout the day, previously texting them that I get an answer from them right away, I can keep moving in my work with you’re doing that with Liscio and tell them either notifications on by the way, because that those notifications aren’t going to pile up like an email notification.

Alison Ball 13:02
No, they just they just get it they just get a little ping with “Hey, Dawn has a question.” “Oh, Dawn has a question.” *ping ping ping*, and they answer back.

Dawn Brolin 13:09
And that’s, that they so here’s an I think that this is even more powerful than anything else. Right? They know if there is something that comes through, they know that that is their accountant, their tax accountant on a text, they don’t post you on an email, ding, they don’t know it’s you. And they and they get so many of those dings that they don’t care anymore. Where when you when you have one specific application that is specific to your taxes to your business, and direct access to your CPA, they are going to tell everybody about that. Because no one else has you know who else is doing it? Well, hopefully everyone is because everyone gets on Liscio.

Alison Ball 13:51
And we have had so many new firms come to us because clients use Liscio with a different practitioner. So we’ve had bookeepers, we’ve had them use, like for example, let’s say I’m let’s say I’m the client and I’m using Liscio with my bookkeeper. And then I go to my CPA firm and I say “Wait, you don’t use Liscio.” And then the CPA firm says, “Well, what do you mean?” And so and then they show it and then they’re like, oh, so we get so many referrals from the client actually driven from the client, because the clients really love it.

Dawn Brolin 14:21
Absolutely. And that that mindset of, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, I was wanting an app like this, I wanted to develop a powerful accounting app that do this communication with for years, I’ve wanted to do it. And now I’m like, well, guess what, I didn’t have to do it because someone else did. And now I like it.

Alison Ball 14:45
It’s very reasonably priced. And it’s very reasonably priced. So you don’t have to go through all the app development. Yeah. And I think the other thing done just you know, I’m mindful we’re going to be up at time pretty quick, but I I think the other thing is just the security and you touched on it. But the but email is such a scary place. And texting is scary. And you know people have to if you have a PTIN, you’ve you’ve had to fill in your Wisp and say that you have that written information security. Is it plan or protocol plan? I don’t want the P stands for. But you’ve actually verified that you’ve got that in place. And so if you’re using email, then you don’t have it in place.

Dawn Brolin 15:25
Yeah, the PTIN. is actually the preparer tax identification numbers what the PTIN is.

Alison Ball 15:30
With the, with the risk.

Dawn Brolin 15:33
And you’re checking a box, man, when you say, Yeah, I’m secure. I’m good. You know, people say, Well, you know, the IRS is never going to come ask for a copy of your plan. Well, you know what, never say never. Because you know, what they want the IRS right now they need money. And you know, how they’re going to get money by finding people, period. So, you know, be be aware, and and think a little bit more about it. I think that’s what we’ve got to do. We just got to step back for a hot second and say, what are the most important components of my firm? Number one are my clients because without them, I don’t have a firm. And so if they really are in the forefront of your mind, if your clients really are that important to you, then you’re going to want to take the steps that you need to implement in an application, Liscio to communicate with them securely. That because here’s it at the end of the day, they’re not thinking about security, they’re not they don’t think about it at all. They’re like, you know, I have somebody, oh, let me just shoot you an email with my W2. And I’m like, No, it’s like, you’re not thinking how you just want to get it to me. So we have to be at the forefront thinking of the security 100%.

Alison Ball 16:40
Yeah, and well you know, it’s just Liscio just makes it very easy for people to do that. And I think if I wanted to leave one thing with you is it’s just really walk in your clients shoes, when you think about the technology you ask them to use an email is probably causing a lot of hurt and harm in your firm. So rethinking mail for sure.

Dawn Brolin 17:00
Yeah, absolutely. And just think about what you hate it because I totally do. I totally do. Um, you know, everybody wants a clean inbox. Yeah, and including your clients, right, including your clients. So, but yes, Liscio telling you to collect communications, make it seamless, make it easy for people to communicate with you. Because if you don’t, someone else will. And that’s the that’s really the takeaway, just get it together. It’s not hard to implement. This is not like trying to implement some kind of new technology that we don’t even understand. It’s something you’re doing already. Do it in one place and do it with Liscio, period. So Alison, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to have you on.

Alison Ball 17:40
Thank you, Dawn!

Dawn Brolin 17:40
Everyone, we will see you on the next DM disruption, we’re going to continue to bring you insights, knowledge, practitioner tips and tricks and all the things that we can help you grow your practice to be more efficient, more effective, and most importantly profitable. Okay, so thanks again. We’ll see you guys all next time


Episode Summary

Nate Flake, VP of Operations at Fishbowl, joins Dawn Brown, CPA, CFE, to talk about his upcoming summit, and to discuss the inventory management services that Fish Bowl provides. Listen now and learn why investing in the right software, connecting with industry professionals, and having a strong team working behind the scenes of your business can lead to its success! 

This episode is sponsored by Fishbowl.

Fishbowl Summit and Nate’s Motivation

Nate talks about the upcoming virtual summit that Fishbowl is hosting and shares his excitement to have a dedicated conference to discuss inventory management. He talks about how the conference will cover everything in an SMB toolkit to give business owners the knowledge and resources to help achieve their company goals.

Importance of Proper Inventory Management

Dawn and Nate discuss how important it is to have correct inventory management to have a successful business, and cutting corners will cause more problems in the long run.

Nate discusses how Fishbowl, his Inventory management company, can help businesses save time, money, and can be installed locally on your desktop.

Benefits of New Hosting Service “Quarium”

Nate also discusses another branch of his company called Quarium, which provides businesses with a hosting service to run Quickbooks and other professional accounting software.

The service also includes a “partner portal” which allows accounting professionals to easily access information from their clients without headache or hassle.

Dawn adds how she appreciates the security that Fishbowl and Quarium can provide to businesses.

Nate also talks about how investing in the right technology in your business early on can benefit your company in the long run. 

“There’s hundreds of companies that are making the right steps and investing in the right technology, and they’re blowing up. It’s crazy.

Importance of Building a Foundation for Your Business-:19:42

Dawn talks about the importance of having a solid foundation in your business, and falling short on areas like inventory, can greatly hurt the growth of your business. Investing in the correct software can greatly improve the structure and flow of a business.

Nate agrees and shares how he appreciates Dawn’s integrity when it comes to working and fighting for her clients.

Partner Program at Fishbowl-26:34

Nate also discusses how Fishbowl has implemented a Partner Program that connects accounting professionals to other industry professionals that can help streamline productivity and increase the success of a business.


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Episode Summary

Robin Hall, Owner & Principal of VARC Solutions talks with Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, about proving the naysayers wrong, and the importance of developing a proper work-life balance, and how to set expectations and boundaries with your clients.

Robin’s Introduction and Motivation

Robin Hall is the Owner & Principal of VARC Solutions, an Intuit centric firm that handles all aspects of the software, including training and purchasing software. Robin talks about how the motto of her company is “helping companies get back to their business.”

Robin shares that her designated motivator is everyone who said she couldn’t do something. Robin also shares that Dawn is also one of her designated motivors, and shares her admiration for Dawn’s enthusiasm about accounting. But most of all, Robin credits a lot of her motivation from seeing her clients succeed, and knowing she had a hand is making that happen. 

How Does Robin Support Her Team?

Robin not only tries to implement team building events, but makes sure she’s taking action everyday in the office to make sure all of her team members feel heard and appreciated. Robin also remembers having negative experience at previous work environments, and actively tools steps to push against those office practices, even if they were considered the norm. 

Robin also talks about one of the initiatives she implemented is “Summer Hours,” where employees work 9 hours Monday-Thursday, and then only work a half day on Friday. Another thing she did was take her team on a sailboating retreat, in order to further develop their relationship with their team members. 

“The more that they have fun together, the more interpersonal communication becomes stronger,” says Robin.

Accountants Aren’t Doormats

Dawn shares an unfortunate experience she had with a client, and talks about her decision to fire the client in the end. “We need to realize as practitioners, we are not doormats,” says Dawn.

Robin and Dawn share their current frustrations with the IRS, and how this is causing strained relationships with current clients.

Robin also adds on to Dawn’s previous comment, and shares that clients need to realize that their practitioners are doing so much behind the scenes, and that they are often solving problems the client was never aware of. She shares that it is unfair for the client to unload their frustrations onto them, and that respect should always be upheld.

Robin also shares that many times, accountants bend over backwards for clients and overextend themselves, which then in turn lead to the client taking advantage of their time.

Maintaining a Work Life Balance

Robin talks about how COVID-19 actually helped her manage her work-life balance better by forcing her to delegate tasks. She shares that she was able to scale down the amount of hours she was working, and shares how our biggest resource is having access to our own time.

Dawn agrees and shares similar sentiments about taking time to reevaluate what’s important in her life, and where she wants to spend her time. 

“I’ve stopped being busy…and I’ve started being productive,” shares Dawn.

Robin adds how she stopped just tracking her billable hours, and now tracks all aspects of her work. This allows her to see areas where she may not have been as productive as she could’ve been. She shares that even if you are on salary, you need to be tracking where you are spending your time to show the areas of the day you could be more productive.

Dawn adds how important it is to set your boundaries with clients so they know what to expect and how to treat you. She adds that when you as a practitioner always make yourself available, it sends the message to the client that they have full access to you.


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Dawn Brolin 0:02

Okay, well, Robin Hall is here to help us learn about motivation. Robin has been actually a designated motivator for me for many years. Robin is the owner of VARC solutions. And she’s gonna tell us, actually Rob, you just tell about yourself, you know more about yourself than I do.

Robin Hall 0:25
You tell it pretty good, Don. But I’m Robin Hall, the owner, Principal Consultant of VARC solutions, we are coming up on our 22nd year in business are completing that 22nd year. So I’m very proud that we are Intuit centric, firm. And so anything that touches QuickBooks, then we handle for our clients anywhere from purchasing software, training on the software, outsourced CFO, anything that they need to do that, really let them get back to their business. So from day one, we’ve had kind of a motto, that’s really fit and taken us over the last 22 years of letting you get back to your business. So anything that the client needs to make them get back to their business, that’s what we’re here to do.

Dawn Brolin 1:12
And I love that. So you have been in the industry for a long time. And with that you’ve met many other accounting professionals, right? You have, you have made it in a lot of ways, your mission as part of your mission of your company, at least there’s just as Robin Hall’s mission in life, is you’ve helped so many other practitioners, other accounting professionals to you know, improve their business, grow their business, and it felt like it doesn’t want to be like Robin, right? That’s the way I see it. And you’ve helped me tremendously over the years for sure. So, you know, motivated, motivated me in a way that, you know, I’ve wanted to be as good as you are, as a consultant, I’m probably 1/10 of the way there. Because you have been doing this for so long, and you’re providing your clients with the right solutions that that, you know, work for them. And so, you know, tell me, Robin, I want to know who your designated motivator is, like, who through your life, it can be a couple people, whatever, that has motivated you to be as successful as you are, was it that somebody believed in you? What, like, what was it?

Robin Hall 2:22
So a couple of things. So one is, actually my designated mode. motivator is actually everybody that said, you couldn’t do it. And my goal in life is really to prove them wrong. And so for every No, I got that just drove me a little harder. And so, you know, in the accounting world, most accountants like to sit behind their desk and do their numbers and not talk to anybody. And, and, you know, you’re a little bit of my designated motivator, because I go to these conferences, and I’ve been going to him for a long time. And, and you see, and we’re all there and learning loads, but then you see this spark running down the aisle or running up on the stage, and just being loud and proud about accounting. And it’s like, well, I can do that, too. And so you’ve kind of motivated me to take that passion, and really just move it forward. And so I think that’s one of the things that’s motivated me is the passion for helping people and the passion. And so I don’t know that I have one designated motivator it when I see that the look on my clients face from just distraught despair, and I can’t do this, and I don’t know how to do it, and my spouse started a business and he making me or she’s making me do this, and they’re just tormented by this. And then we break it down to simple terms, and then they come out. And, you know, back when we used to go see clients, and you’d get a hug at the end of the appointment. That’s what made me motivated to do more. And to to, that’s what gives me my shining star. And so that motivates me. And then the people that said, you know, when I first started out, it was like, Well, maybe you need to go and do a little bit more education on this and maybe you need this and so I had worked in all aspects of accounting and I’m like, you know, I can do this I can I can do this and so all again, all those naysayers just made me want to do it more and I think with everything I’ve done in my life, if somebody tells me No, I’m just gonna go and do it anyway. So you know that that’s one of my you know, my awesomeness is probably got me a little farther. But, and then again, Dawn, people like you that I see out there, going and doing it and it’s great to be up. I love to stand up in front of a class, and just be crazy, because it’s okay to be crazy. and talk about accounting, it gets dull and boring. And it’s, it’s those things that just make you perk up. And it’s more than just knowledge. And I think, way we do our business and the way that we take care of people, it’s, that’s what drives me to do more. It’s the passion for what we’re doing.

Dawn Brolin 5:23
Well, and that’s one of the things like from a, as a practical, logical accounting mindset that I’ve always thought of, like, I’ve watched you do classes at scaling, new heights, or QB Connect are on webinars, or wherever the heck you happen to be. And I think for me like to watch you is your knowledge. Right? So obviously, you’re super funny. We’ve always had a great time together. And that’s definitely a thing. I didn’t you motivate a lot of people because in certainly for many reasons, but you know, you have success, and you’ve committed to your team, and you can see that in the longevity, with your, with your, with your players. That, who are looking for we’re all looking for that perfect balance of I run a company, and I’ve got to be educated because I got to know my shit. Like, that’s always good. We got to know our shit. Right? You can’t fake your way through that stuff. It just doesn’t work that way. But I just find like, what, give me a couple of things that you do with your team, because you do a lot of things with your team, your team var, see, you’ve got shirts to prove it. Your your people are proud to wear them. And you know, what, what are some of the things that you’re doing with your team that that seemed to be working for you.

Robin Hall 6:44
So we try and do different things, we have a lot of team building events and stuff that I try and do things, little things in the office as well. But one of the things that I’ve learned, you know, I read a lot of books, and I don’t follow any one person’s philosophy. I say, I kind of I’m in the buffet. So I take a little bit from everybody’s and I take the pieces that talk to me. And, you know, I make sure and I kind of build my own little culture with that. And the other thing that I’ve done is I worked for, you know, some not so healthy places, they weren’t the best work environment. And so I took all those rules that were rules for the sake of being rules and threw them out and said, I take care of my staff, my staff will take care of the clients. And that’s the ultimate goal. So with every decision that I make about my staff, then we try and make sure of is the client getting taken care of? Can I be flexible in this? If so then yeah, go ahead and do it. So you know, when that’s served us well. And so, like right now, we’ve small thing, but we’ve instituted summer hours. And so what is that Monday through first Thursday, we work nine hours, and then on Friday, we are working a half a day. But the caveat is if a client has to have something Friday afternoon, then and they do it in advance, not last minute, Susie, but we take care of them, but we’re giving them in the summertime when their kids are out of school and all that, you know, a half a day extra on their weekend. They’re not having to burn vacation. They’re not having to rearrange things. Everybody knows, we’re kind of training our clients for that. But we they know if we’re if we need if they need something we’re here. So a couple other things, you know, you know, the we just did a team building where it was I took them out on sailboats. And so for we were in two different teams. And so for the first two hours, they taught us how to sail, some of us didn’t learn quite as well as the others. And then the last two hours, we had a race. And so you know, and leading up to that they all know we’re doing an event, but I like to not tell them what we’re doing. And then the week before, I’ll just kind of drop hints. Well, you might get wet. Yeah, might need some sunscreen, you know, so I’ve dropped hints and somebody asked, we were swimming with sharks. And so the next step was there, there shouldn’t be any sharks, but I’m not making any promises. So you know, I just try and make it you know, a little bit fun and games. One of the things that we did for to build our teams, because I like to do the teams different every time and I don’t let people if they’re office mates, I don’t let them be on the same team because I want people to mix it up. And I had them draw and I gave them two different games. And, and one of the games was like lists all the 50 states and the other one was it was like 24 Ah, in a in a D, and you had to say what it was. And there were 50 of those. So it’s 24 hours in the day. So that little riddles and so they got to look at those. And then I said, if you don’t like your option, then there’s option C, but it’s a one time trade, you can’t can’t give it back. Right? So I had a couple people go for option C. And option C was like these horrible history questions and these horrible math questions and all of this stuff. The first line of the thing said, make sure to read this completely. Before answering any questions. So Dawnn, I’m sure you know what’s coming next. The last was write your name on your paper and turn it back in, like, donate there any questions. So you know, I got some, you know, you’re a mean, on the bottom of a couple of those. And one of my top guys just started going to town on the math questions. But part of that was the high staff redirection, the people giving you directions, they’re there for a purpose. It’s not just hot air, read the directions. And then they, I gave them time to work together and stuff like that. So, but I brought lunch in, and we all did that as a team. So the more that they have fun together, the more that those interpersonal communications get stronger. So if somebody says something, and they’re like, they’re being mean, or if you know that that’s not their personality, and you have a personal relationship, and not just a working relationship, yet, you don’t take that as personal. And so we’ve I’ve found, since we’ve been doing a lot of team building, and I do one, about once a quarter. But they’re not scheduled. And it’s just wherever Robin feels like it, but it’s about once a quarter. Because I don’t want people to have the oh, well, we’re doing this this weekend or something like that. So, but they always have fun. We never, we’ve never repeated in any of our team building stuff. And so but they’re learning how to work together. So that’s the important part to me is one, I expect them to work hard, but I want them to play hard. And I want to give them the environment to do it and do it together.

Dawn Brolin 12:23
Right. And that’s, you know, as we’re, at least I know, I’ve talked to a handful of people and been watching social media on the struggles that a lot of practitioners are having right now. And it’s, it’s kind of sad, you know, a lot of them are like, I don’t know, if I want to do this anymore. I don’t, you know, why did I choose this route for my career. One of the things that we’re the perspective that we’re trying to give them is or that I’m trying to message to them is, we got to try to not focus on the client side, drag us down, because what’ll happen is you’ll get an email or get a phone call from a client, it’s just not a pleasant experience, and it ruins the rest of the day. Right? And, you know, I have an example a couple of weeks ago, or maybe it’s been a month now, I don’t know, I think it’s about a month. And we acquired that we we did a huge project where we are kicking butt taking names, basically running for companies for him for locations of his of his business, where which wasn’t necessarily part of the the agreement, but we you know, scope creep, but we’ve charged him for every moment. And it was, you know, a couple 100 grand over the last year and he popped off on us so hard, like just went sideways for absolutely no reason. And we fired him. And I think that sometimes we have to realize as practitioners, we are not doormats, right. Right. You know, I mean, are you seeing because that’s, that’s, I think what we’re seeing is, obviously, with the IRS and all their ridiculousness right now, and not being able to keep up with things,

Robin Hall 13:51
What They’re being ridiculous? I did not notice that Dawn!?

Dawn Brolin 13:57
You know, that’s why prior to having this being on the podcast would be I didn’t want to disclose that because I thought you would be you’d be so shocked and maybe wouldn’t want to come on because you disagreed with me. They are out of control and the clients are going bananas. And that’s not just the IRS but the law you deal with a lot of sales tax. Right and trying to get through to those people and those people are brutal in the first place.

Robin Hall 14:26
Yeah, yeah, we’re we’re finding that that states are going a little crazy to we just had in Texas, they finally just released the unemployment rates for starting January 1 of 2021. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. So we get to go backwards. So it’s a fun time over here. And so, but here, here’s the thing. I want to go back to your doormat comments. You know how like our kids. They’re more they’re well behaved when they’re with others. but not so much when they’re with us. So I think clients get comfortable. And they figure we’re part of their minions, staff of minions, and so they can just pop off at us. And it’s okay. And, you know, they forget that that we are an extension, but we are separate. And so we do deserve the respect. And they don’t get to, because there’s something else going on in their world pop off of that, because we are out there fighting those battles to them, and sometimes doing things that they don’t necessarily understand the depth of what we’re doing. So when we have to call the IRS or call something on behalf of payroll, they don’t realize the hoops that we’re jumping through, they just know that, you know, it got fixed, and they don’t understand what it takes to do that. And so I think with them popping off, sometimes it’s just like our kids, they’re more comfortable. And so they feel like it’s a safe environment to do that. And they forget that we’re do that respect as well. So you can be a little bit of a sounding board. And you can you can grumble with me, but not at me. Right. So and when you take it, you know, it’s a fine line, when they cross over it. It’s, it’s almost an uncrossable that they can’t get back.

Dawn Brolin 16:26
Right? Right. And you know, when I think more than anything, and I totally, I can totally sympathize and empathize with people because all we all get that from the client. At the end of the day, the way I kind of look at it is, you know, we have this one that a bad apple here and there, and we’re all gonna have them, that’s nothing you can change. But what you can do is change your focus and like focus on those clients that you’re like, Oh, my goodness, whenever to call I love them. I didn’t example when I had you was going through this firing process with this large client. I have this this client that came in, they had to sign a power of attorney 2848 because the IRS can’t decide what they actually will accept a signatures or not, because we know they said they will. But then like half the agents won’t. It’s just you just want to go to the phone and grab them by phone,

Robin Hall 17:13
And if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday as well.

Dawn Brolin 17:18
Yes, definitely not a Friday.

Robin Hall 17:21
Yeah, no, definitely not a Monday either.

Dawn Brolin 17:23
No, no Monday and Fridays, you’re not gonna get that cooperation. So, so this wonderful couple came in there. And you know, they’re not a large line by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re probably two of the nicest, kindest people you’ll ever meet, right? We all have a ton of clients like that the bulk of our clients are good people, they care about you, as much as you care about them. There’s a reciprocation in the relationship. That is, you know, that makes sense. And then you just have those plants that are not like that. So I have this, this couple come in, and, and they were they you know, oh, you know, I know, we just here sign this, but we have some questions. Should we make another appointment? And I’ll go, heck, no, let’s talk now. And they were just so I mean, after every sentence, I thought, I swear they said, Thank you.

Robin Hall 18:07
So yeah, like, those that you just want to just can can I have 100 of you? Can I you know, is do you have friends that are just like you, I want those clients. Here’s another lesson that I’ve learned with that Dawn, is, you know, those clients that are really in desperate need and really need a little bit more by our nature, and I know you do this as well, you and I’ve had conversations over the years, we try and bend over backwards. Yes, I can work like, Oh, I’ll come in on Saturday. Yes, don’t worry, it’s a five o’clock appointment is I’m not going to charge you any extra for it being after hours. All of those things that you bend over backwards for. Those are the ones that seem to take advantage down the road, whereas the ones that you’re like, No, our hours are 830 to five, and it’s by appointment, we booked up about a week in advance. They make sure they have their shit together. And and so sometimes we’re our own worst enemy by trying to be that bend over backwards hopeful, because it comes back later and bites us.

Dawn Brolin 19:14
Yes, I totally agree with that. And as a matter of fact, I had a conversation with Chris Farrell, about similar to this conversation. But I said to him, I said, you know, sending those emails out at 11 o’clock at night, like I mean, I used to I used to work at 14-15 hour days, and I was hardcore for it. I was all about it. You were bad. You think you’re cool. When really in the end of the day, you just don’t have your shit together. Right? So. So here we’re talking about that 11 o’clock 11pm email that you send out. That email just told whoever you sent it to that it was okay to talk to you 11 o’clock at night? Absolutely. And that is setting yourself up for failure.

Robin Hall 19:55
So, so I’m going to I’m going to before we got on the podcast, you and I were talking A little bit about COVID. And I’m going to tell you, if there’s one thing that came good out of COVID is before one of my goals. So, pre COVID, one of my goals was to get to a 50 hour work down to a 50 hour workweek, not to but down to a 50 hour workweek and to be home by six o’clock, two or three nights a week. For years, I had that goal for years, and I couldn’t hit it. I couldn’t make it. It was there was always something I was here till seven or eight o’clock, almost every night. And so, you know, those 12 1314 hour days were very common. And so, one when COVID had one, I went down hard. And so I went down for three weeks. And so even though I have a very, very, very competent staff, there was things that I was holding, and then I wouldn’t delegate. So I had to learn to delegate because I was on my couch for three weeks, and I wasn’t moving. But then also, I learned, like, since we’ve come back, and my staff has all been back in the office for about a year now. But it I’m going home about six o’clock every night. And so I’ve learned how to separate that something happened in there where it was either that delegation I did, he has either stuck, or I’ve learned to say no, in my day is done at six o’clock. Now there’s a rarity that I’ll stay later and do something but I’m not working on weekends. And I’m really not saying past six o’clock on a regular basis anymore. So there was some shifts in where we had that work disruption. That actually was good for me because I had to reassess and, and we allocate my resources. And our biggest resource is our own time.

Dawn Brolin 21:55
Yeah, that’s definitely I mean, as far as COVID I mean, obviously, such a terrible situation and terrible thing that’s happened. It’s like, I mean, for me, I guess, I just realized what was most important, I think a lot of us had like a little bit of a reflection time, I would hope that you can’t take things for granted. You don’t have any idea. You know, what is tomorrow gonna bring? We don’t know, it was like, almost like a moment to moment, are we gonna ever be able to leave our houses again, like, this whole reflection of truth of you know, what it was mostly Robin, I think it was out of our control. And we can operate, that’s a big deal is a big deal. And we had to shift and we had to adjust and we had to realize that listen, you know, I don’t have control. So what I did this one of the things we teach the girls softballs kids call them what in this in the book, what’s important now when philosophy it’s not about winning, quote, unquote, white for now. And that’s something that we all I think struggle with in one capacity, like, What’s tomorrow gonna bring? You know, who cares? What’s gonna happen tomorrow? Let’s, let’s focus on where we are today. We’re, where are you be in your shoes, we say, be in your shoes, wherever your shoes are, that’s where you are. You’re not 10 steps ahead or sense. 10 steps behind, you are where you are. And I think that that reflection for a lot of us, you know, I realized I don’t need to be in here. You know, people say, Oh, you’re busy. You know what, I’ve stopped being busy. You know, what I started to do? This is a big deal. I started being productive. Right? Right. If this if this big ass is in the seat, she better be making some money, solving problems doing something, right?

Robin Hall 23:37
So a long time ago, I used to just track my time for what I was billable. And then now, I mean, I am absolutely real. Like, I get paid a salary. I don’t I don’t get paid by the hours that I work. But I am religious about tracking my time. You know, we’ve dealt with with T sheets. And so it’s very easy clock in clock out. But I track all of my non billable time. And so I can go back and go, Why did I have 20 hours of VARC time? What was I doing? And Was I being productive? So everybody in my company for me down? We track everything that we do. And it’s it’s for that very reason. It’s like what were you doing? Were you just there filling a seat? Or were you working on something trying to make things better? So it’s, it’s, it’s amazing how much that can open. And so I’ve talked to a lot of solo practitioners that it’s like, well, I’m all on fixed fee and just me and I’m not paying anybody by the hour so there’s no need to track my time. I’m like that is the most important time to track your time because you don’t know what those timestamps are. You know, the one of the things that I pulled from somebody else’s you We instituted, and I can waive it if I so choose, but the, the you’ve had these two dogs. So I just have a quick question, you can get quick question to death. And, you know, we’ve instituted that we have a minimum charge, and for my clients that I know, we’re gonna have that quick question, then we’ll do it for the month, and then we just build them at the end of the month for, oh, you had an hour’s worth of quick workings for the month, we’ll just bill you for an hour. Right. But they understand that that I bill, they understand that my time and my education is worth something. And so a lot of times, we give that away, as consultants, we give that our education away. So when we go, and we spend that valuable time at scaling new heights are the QB connect, and all those webinars and learning all about the PPP, and all of those things that we had to just instantly learn and know about and become experts on that actually took a whole lot of work in the background. And so when I can give you an answer on PPP, or the ffcra, often, that’s because I had 20 hours worth of figuring it out and learn and, and talking to other people and educating myself so that I can give you that two second answer. And you’re not having to do 20 hours worth of research.

Dawn Brolin 26:23
Exactly. Exactly. And I think what is one of the most important things that you said, I think the people who are listening should definitely take this one away, is setting the expectation with the clients they know expect. So saying, Okay, you got a quick question. That’s fine. Or like I love times, people, obviously, they want to know some tax information, or they have questions around tax. And Tracy knows, first of all, one of the things and I love the delegation conversation, Robin, because it’s like, I would Yeah, no problem. Give me a call, you know, I’m just sitting here, blah, blah, blah, whatever it was like then, then then because the way I presented Oh, you have full access, and you don’t worry about it became a problem, right? To get work done, because all I did was answer those quick questions or give that advice over the phone on the phone all frickin day or answering 7000 emails about it. It’s like Tracy, so if you want to talk to me about this, you want this kind of help or whatever, you got to set up an appointment, because number one, I suck at my own calendar. You’ve got to mama, right yeah.

Robin Hall 27:20
Because you and I are our own worst enemy.

Dawn Brolin 27:23
Oh, we are!

Robin Hall 27:25
So stop that people! I actually make it a joke with my clients so that they’re they don’t…1.) I don’t like it, and I know a lot of people do this use like Calendly. And it’s like, go to my signature and make your appointment on my calendar. I have somebody in my office is like, no, let me find a good time. Nope, that doesn’t work, what what fits on you, and then doing overtime zones and all of that. I like that personal touch. We don’t have anybody, we don’t have voicemail here. So, you know, somebody always answers the phone. You know, that’s another thing. But I joke with my clients, and I go, let me get you Denise, if she’s going to set an appointment, she doesn’t let me touch my calendar, because I’ll just overbooked myself, or I’ll, you know, do it wrong. So I want to make sure you get taken care of so let me have her make sure. And then we I train them to go to her instead of coming directly to me. And so now even if they email me, they copy her because they know or if they if they don’t, then I say yes, I can help you with that. I’m going to copy Nancy needs to call you and or I’ve copied Nancy, she’s gonna call you and get a time setup, we’ll get you all taken care of. And so I don’t answer that question right then and there. Because again, it’s setting a precedent to I give them the behavior that I want, go over here to Nancy so she can set it up. And to I’ve defined that as an appointment, so that they know that it’s billable, and they have respect of that time.

Dawn Brolin 28:58
Exactly. And that you’re that setting experts and that may help people who are listening, like realize it’s okay for you to determine how you want to operate. That’s like one of the hardest things like you want to make everybody happy you’re doing all those people pleasing, but the same time you’re making yourself miserable. So set some set some boundaries for yourself and for your, for your firm and for your staff and, and just you know, you can make the experience a much better experience for everybody all around once you start realize you got to do that. And so, Robin, I can’t thank you enough for coming on, because I just knew you have to come back. Sure.

Robin Hall 29:35
Absolutely. Dawn, I will see you at any point you whether you knew it or not. It’s funny that you said I was one of your motivators. You’re one of my motivators. So maybe that’s why sometimes we just look like we’re going in circles. No, I’m kidding. It really okay. I learned a lot from you. And if you pick up things from me then not just that just builds me up and just like my clients gives me power and passion that that made my day you telling me that so I would love to come back and visit you at any point.

Dawn Brolin 30:07
I love it. It’s and it’s the truth I don’t lie I’m not a liar just just is not in my, in my blood. And, you know, I just I do appreciate you and I know there’s a lot of other people out there who appreciate you Robin because like I said, You’re you’re a, you’re a such a thoughtful presenter, a thoughtful person, you’re always willing to give your time and then we talked a couple weeks ago about sales tax together and, you know, I was like, I need your help. And you were on, you know, ready to jump right in and, and you know, that’s, I think that’s just one last message for people who are listening if you’re out there and you’re struggling, grab on to somebody who’s doing it who’s getting it done. And we all want to help each other so never be too shy or or whatever to reach out to somebody we’re here for everybody. So Robin Hall VARC solutions can find you you’re you know you’re out there doing all kinds of amazing things you can still quit things consultants are doing all kinds of crazy stuff but what, Robin, is that right?

Robin Hall 31:03
That’s correct.

Dawn Brolin 31:05
I love it, VARC solutions, obviously Rob is all over LinkedIn, all over Twitter all over Facebook. She’s just everywhere, and crazy. So I appreciate you, Robin. I love you so much, buddy. And I look forward to talking to you soon.

Robin Hall 31:16
Absolutely. And I’ll see you at Scaling I’m sure in a couple months.

Dawn Brolin 31:19
You know you will I wouldn’t miss it.

Robin Hall 31:21
Alright girl, thanks.

Dawn Brolin 31:23
Okay, talk to you soon. Bye bye.

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Episode Summary

Learn how to streamline and transform your transactional practice to create a proactive practice with these PowerSHIFT strategies from The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals, Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, and Sean Duncan, CPA, Founder of SMD Consulting & Accounting, LLC.

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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of The Designated Motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping up with payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the DEM disruption. We’re here at Scaling New Heights live very exciting times this week, and I’m here with Sean Duncan, the owner, CEO, President, you name it. He’s it at SMD Consulting and Accounting, and one of my very best friends who’s my conference boyfriend, which I think is totally fine to say!

Sean Duncan 1:07
Hey, my wife said it’s okay.

Dawn Brolin 1:09
We got permission, I mean, it makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. It’s all good. So we’re excited here to today we’re gonna talk to you a little bit about how you can go from somebody that’s like a tax practitioner, and move yourself into advisory. And so Sean is is leading the way. When it comes to advisory work with clients. I’m still dying over this lady over my shoulder right here. Because I can see it’s almost like we’re connected. We’re like, twins that are connected. But that’s something different. Anyway, so excited to talk to you, Sean. So Sean, your story is amazing, because you didn’t start out wanting to be an accountant. Nope. What happened to you?

Sean Duncan 1:44
Oh, my God. Talk about shock when I was a child, no. So I originally went into accounting because I was going to go into the FBI. Now, that really wasn’t the original journey. I was lost, not sure what I was gonna do for a career. But the FBI struck me as a calling. And that’s an important thing, because it wasn’t just I want to go do a job it was calling. And law, language and accounting are the easiest three ways to get the bureau. So I happen to be sitting in an accounting class, congratulations. I’m an accountant. I’m the first kid my family to get a college degree. And so I’m certainly the first to get a master’s degree. And so fast forward 2003, I’ve got my final interview scheduled with the Bureau, I’m going to fly up to Kansas City, Missouri for those interviews. I’m gonna head down to Austin, do my physical fitness test, Dallas coordinator says Shawn, you’re my best candidate. Just go through the motions in the next three to four months, you’ll be in the bureau, you’ve made it. And then the second epiphany, the first epiphany was I was going to go into the bureau, second epiphany, unfortunately, 10 years after college and all the stuff like I’m, I’ve done it, I realized how badly I wanted to be a husband and data. And so this is the weird moment is like if I go into the bureau and I go pursue hostage rescue team, which is their SWAT cuz I’m kind of a dumb meat head. I wasn’t gonna be around. Your investigations, you’re traveling. And it just my my value proposition for that declined immediately when it really struck me how much I wanted to be a father and a husband. So I turned them down. And so here I am, 30 years old. And I have a master’s degree in accounting that I don’t want.

Dawn Brolin 3:17
I don’t want it!

Sean Duncan 3:19
I mean, come on, who chooses accounting. No, seriously, guys, I didn’t intend to be a CPA in the traditional sense. I wanted to pursue this dream, the CPA, the accounting that was all part of the path. And then no joke for two years completely lost. I was in lost soul. I was depressed. I had no clue what I was going to do. Do I go back to school? What do you do? My wife is amazing and supportive. In that journey of the two years, it occurred to me why the beer was so compelling. When I was looking at the career, it was about how the job matters. When I’m doing what I’m doing the job actually has to mean something when I’m laying on my deathbed 400 years from now because I I will be part robot. I want to make sure that when my old Tron self looks back and says, Did it count, right? All the hours we spent I mean, we all spend a lot of time at work. Are you doing something that fulfills you and adds value? And that was it. That was the moment and I realized I had all these skills that help business owners that help individuals and helping others achieve success? Well, that’s it, it doesn’t have to be the bureau, it just has to be something that has meaning. And that actually was where SMD consulting and accounting started. I wanted to lead with SMD Consulting and Accounting. It’s named in order on purpose because we wanted to be that CPA advisor that actually gave advice to small business owners because there’s brilliant practitioners out there. But it’s hard to do advice if you don’t know where to start. And that was where my skill sets were and all the career that I built. So started the firm and I wanted to go do that. So that’s the FBI piece of it is focusing on how we add as much value as possible to people and their families.

Dawn Brolin 4:57
And so, in addition to that, Your whole thing was like you said, like, I want to, I want to be a dad. I want to be a family, man. And you knew that that path wasn’t going to be there for you. Now, fast forward after that. You became a tax man.

Sean Duncan 5:14
Yeah, I did. I did.

Dawn Brolin 5:15
And you did tax work. And you did tax work, tax work, tax work. And what were you able to do? Like you were just tied down? It was almost like you were in the FBI, but in the tax world…

Sean Duncan 5:25
Okay, so there’s these epiphany moments that keep having these moments, right. I’m sitting there on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in my office, and I got the window seat, and it’s like, two in the afternoon, and I’m working on a return. It’s 75 outside. And I get a text from my wife again. Sunday afternoon. Yes, it’s tax season, of course. Her and my wife is texting me pictures of her and the kids at Six Flags. Wait a second?

Dawn Brolin 5:50
Oh, I want to go on that roller coaster!

Sean Duncan 5:52
Yeah. And so I turned down the FBI, before I had kids. Now I have them and I’m not with them. And it was, it was absurd. I was just one of those. Okay, this is clearly not working. And oddly enough, we’re sitting at scaling new heights, in scaling new heights. 2017 is when the final kind of bridge got into place. The camel’s back. That was it. I’m sitting at the conference. And it dawned on me, I don’t have to do taxes, my skill, our team skill, the value proposition is advice. Let’s just do the thing we’re amazing at because unfortunately, the dang tax returns are taking us away from the families not not just me. It was taking us away from our club, my employees, families, it was taking us away from the advice on the client. I mean, if you’re a client, and it’s April 14, and you go, Sean, I’m going to sell my business for 10 million bucks. Oh my God, I need help. My answer was awesome. Can we talk in May? Exactly. That’s not and we can. We were staffing up like crazy. I’m my office is in Frisco, Texas, one of the fastest growing cities in the US a phenomenal city. We were the largest firm in town. So we were successful. Unfortunately, our success was keeping me from my success. My success was to be the best husband and dad, my employees, I wanted them to spend time with their family. I wanted us to give value to clients. Because again, that’s why we started the firm. And we were disappearing from our clients taxes were getting in the way of achieving achieving our definition of success. And so I said enough’s enough. And I literally fired all the textbooks. off he went. And now we all we do is advise we do bookkeeping work, because the bookkeeping gives us the data that we need to do the analysis. But we focused on advice and then had to completely create a whole brand new model. And it was it was a journey.

Dawn Brolin 7:37
It’s a journey, and I want to talk about that journey. Because with every with change comes pain, just know that’s gonna happen. But you know what? That success is that you have after the fact that you have today in here and now, way outweigh those pains. But absolutely. There were pains and I want to hear, give me if you want 123 however many you want to give me pain points that you had when you were transitioning from tax to advisory.

Sean Duncan 8:04
Well, Dr. Dawn…

Dawn Brolin 8:07
Lay down on the couch! It was one day! I was crying!

Sean Duncan 8:16
I screwed up so many times. I screwed up because I was creating something completely. Again if y’all are accountants, you know what it’s like, you know, our industry have a pattern. This is the way it’s always been done. And here I am saying no, we don’t do tax prep, we just do advice. First pain is I underpriced now that’s a common theme here. We don’t charge enough. Well, you don’t, I was creating something new. So I kind of looked like I was beta testing on everybody. Right? And you can’t leap into the feet I could have. But and I should have I foot I went into low. And then scope creep happens in things that that hurt revenue dramatically because I had taken a big giant meaty seif to two thirds of my revenue. Yes, again, I was killing it.

Dawn Brolin 8:57
No guts, no glory, buddy.

Sean Duncan 8:59
And so when in of course, there’s the financial pressure, you’re trying to juggle and make ends meet. And so I had to be very clear and confident. And I will say that cutting all those clients, I never had doubt that that was the weirdest moment is I mean, if you can imagine you’re going to go to your firm and say, we’re getting rid of two thirds of the revenue. Let’s do this. It’s a terrifying Oh, absolutely. And I I never had doubt. And we’ll talk maybe if we had time about what vision plan and goal and and how I worked backwards in my strategy, but it was never a question that I was making the right choice. I was now seeing my family more and I was doing the things we need to do. We were helping people with more meeting but mistakes, absolutely underpriced and that that really created a whole new pressure.

Dawn Brolin 9:40
So underpricing of advisory work?

Sean Duncan 9:42
All of it.

Dawn Brolin 9:43

Sean Duncan 9:44
Everything, especially the advisory because it was really trying to feel out where the market was, who was on I was going to serve and how that works. Second, we we tried to be customized like, John, what do you need because what you need is different than what Nick needs but Nick needs something different. So we created this own ellaborate checkbox system of all this terrible, terrible, no one knew what we did because we did try to do everything. We then brought that down to the good old Mark wicker Sham, you know three choices of versions right I got the bronze silver platinum, because I skipped gold, who needs gold?

Dawn Brolin 10:16
Who needs goals? So overrated?

Sean Duncan 10:20
Well, we, that was too much, right? Because then clients were looking at well, I thought I signed up for this here, and you can show them the contract. So then we had to boil it down again. I mean, no joke for two plus years, we were trying to invent the methodology and just kept screwing up. But there’s an old Chinese proverb that says, You’re going to fall down seven times get up eight. And that was it. It was the resilience just kept getting up. So I kept screwing that up. And there were lots of other different things like the the challenges that we have with communication, making sure the client really gets it. But there were, there were a lot of hurdles, a lot of hurdles the market is still isn’t ready for you. I mean, imagine all the people that come in and say I need a tax return. Okay. I don’t do that. But I can save you $100,000. Yeah, but I need a tax return.

Dawn Brolin 11:06
I need that done. Well, in order for me to refinance my mortgage, or whatever it may be.

Sean Duncan 11:10
I’ve had somebody that we’ve modeled out and said, if we do these three things, we will save you $100,000 This year, yeah. But if you’re not gonna do my return, well, we can find you somebody that’s amazing at preparing, we’ll build the strategy. And they’ll prepare. Yeah, I need it all in one roof. And they go to the other person who doesn’t give advice. And so they’re the smartest thing, they’re happy to pay the 100,000 in taxes for that convenience. So we have to solve for that and make it as frictionless as we can. So it’s, it’s a journey in the key to this really, for me is, this is what I wanted to create for my clients, for my employees, and honestly, selfishly for myself. Sure. And so we were creating what we believe to be right listening to the marketplace as much as we could, but it was, it was rough. Some moments, you’re sitting there going, am I just the dumbest person in the world. But then you knew we knew we were adding value, we knew we were helping, we knew we were lifting up. And I knew that this is where the industry is going. I mean, we’ve talked about this off here a lot, oh, my gosh, where our industry is going, you must be advising. Now. That’s how I chose to advise. But a lot of people will do advisory live and stuff like that. So I can tell you all kinds of terrible stories..

Dawn Brolin 12:12
Well, I’m sure but but really, at the end of the day, okay. So the successes don’t necessarily happen through the journey. And the because the journey always has the bumps and bumps and bruises. And you know, you get your butt kicked and stuff like that. So because a lot of listeners, we talk about advisory all the time, right? So it’s advisory advisory, you’re like, well, what the heck is that? Really? So So can you out for me? Can you dumb it down for me to say, these are the types of things, pick a client and say, This is what we do from an advisory perspective for this client. So any client, you think you’re not to mention their names and like that? Or if they have a family? We don’t care about that. But just what do you what is your process? So I come to you? And I’m like, Shawn, I’ve got this business, and I need help. What do you what do you say? What do you do?

Sean Duncan 12:57
We start with a lot of fact finding, we got to find out who you are, because what your pain is different than somebody else’s pain. So we’re still listening and customizing. We have a standard pricing model and methodology because the more the more you standardize it, the simpler it is, I understand. But I gotta know what you need. Because I actually may walk out of that meeting and say, You don’t need me, you’re good. You know, we’re giving you two pieces of advice that go with the challenge. And this is really the hurdle we run across a lot advisors and and I’ve had, I’ve actually had people stop me at scaling and engage in other conferences, and say, How do you know what to tell somebody? I will say this to the audience. Y’all are really smart people. You know what you’re doing, you know how the entities your work, you know how the books work, you know how to do tax savings, you know, that mileage is a tax deduction. I know that sounds rudimentary. But clients don’t know that true. And so it could be just as simple as scanning the tax return and going to did you know, you can write off your cell phone, boom, there’s $1,000 tax deduction. It’s the simple stuff that we take for granted, the client in the public doesn’t know. So actually honestly start there. We look at what’s going on and going, Okay, let me hit the low hanging fruit that creates an immediate value. And then if I’ve got to look at something more complex, I go into kind of the arsenal of whatever I’ve got in my head and I start analyzing entity formation, or do you have a will we do full estate planning? So it gets into even more elaborate if we need to? What does Dawn need what is Don’s pain? And this really comes back to the heart of it is what is success for you will almost always ask, What do you define success to be is what your success is, is what we should be working toward? Not some contraption that I come up with. I’ve had plenty of clients that like they just want scoreboard, I want to make as much money as possible. Sure, cool. Nothing wrong with that. I want to take as many vacations as possible. It’s a different model. And so we’re listening to how we can create the solutions and honestly, you just help. If you go in and help. Yeah, you’re making them better. You’re adding value. Congratulations, you’re an advisor and you’d be shocked. The things that a client will value would be the stuff you’re like, well, that one was obvious, right? Wait, wait, so I can I can write off that conferences. business expense. Yeah. That’s why you went right. But if so, so is all the alcohol the conference, okay, that might be maybe sorta oh, what kind of conference was it?

Dawn Brolin 15:18
It depends on how much you…no…we will get into those things but, another thing too that I find interesting. And a great maybe a good example is 2021 and 2022 meals and entertainment well, meals no more meals are 100% deduction. How many of you that are listening right now have told your clients? Hey, guess what, go spend money at the local restaurant because it’s 100% deduction? Yep. Like that’s, that is advisor. That’s advisory services right there. If I’ve ever heard of it!

Sean Duncan 15:45
Or just telling what the new tax laws are. We don’t know what the new tax laws are. But you have an inkling? Sure. That’s proactive. Okay, by the way, you guys are I have lots of real estate clients. I have a lot of position clients. Hey, real estate client? Did you know the 1031 exchange is possibly at risk? Yeah, maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But if you’re giving them the heads up, they can start thinking it and they’re telling their friend Oh my gosh, my CPA or EA told me this. And if it doesn’t pass, you celebrate the victory and say, Hooray, we don’t have to worry about it. But if it does happen, they knew it. And they’re not feeling like they’re blindsided. So sometimes you’re you’re telling them information you don’t even know. You’re there to share and help. And that’s what and honestly, that’s where I get a little selfish is I love helping. I love that fulfillment. I know you guys do to everybody. The accounting profession is full of people that are people pleasers, and they want to help and you said this in your session. We want to help people be better. Yeah. And if you just have this information in your head, and you’re not sharing it, it doesn’t do anyone any good.

Dawn Brolin 16:40
Well, I think part of it too, is that what we’re doing is we’re getting, we’re getting them what they need a tax return, we’re getting them what they need their books reconcile, we’re getting them what they need. But with those things are not giving them that vision that they need to plan ahead and be ready for what’s happening in the future, not behind you. And so I want to transition a little bit to of course, we’re sitting in the ADP booth, because we love ADP. And so you know, one of the great parts about ADP is their accountant Connect portal, because your talent your set, we’re gonna we’re talking about how can you advise your clients? What tools can we use simple tools to advise our clients, reasonable compensation, you know, go Google that there’s a billion different ways you could go, there’s no definition. It’s just like, what? And so, you know, ADP gives us that information through accountant connect. And I mean, personally, accountant Connect is turning into an advisory hub, it really is. It’s amazing. I mean, between between what they already have in benchmarking industries, you know, in various industry reports, and now the strategic partnerships that they’re doing with Gerard and, and biz equity and things like that, where they’re, hey, listen, guys, we’re opening our API to give the information to these third party vendors, if you will, because we’re all playing in the same sandbox. So if you’re sitting here, you’re listening, you’re like, Well, you know, everybody talks about advisory advisory advisor, I don’t know how I can start with advisory, how do I do that? You know, what you could take step one, take one client that you currently service, and start to do more than reconciling, do more than on, you know, a tax return, or whatever, and say, You know what, I’m going to take this client to the full end of the earth. And I’m going to actually start advising, it doesn’t have to be, we don’t have to go so extreme, as Sean did immediately, and I’m selling tax, and I’m going over here, and but you know, what you can start with the clients you already have. But you’ve got to have access, the key is you have to have access to the tools that give you that information to be able to advise. So if you’re out there, and you’re like, oh, yeah, I’m logging into five different payroll services. And so I’d have to gather that information to be able to give insights, well, you know, you might want to think twice, right? And that’s a one example. But, you know, I think for people to get started, is that a good start? Is that a good suggestion?

Sean Duncan 18:58
And actually was really funny, I didn’t tell you this earlier. I just realized that here at Scaling, I’ve had no less than three different CPAs come up to me from prior conferences and thanked me about the advice and tips I gave them on the change how it changed their business in their lives. And I’m like, I this was the stand aside of the booth. And we’re chit chatting, right? Love that. It doesn’t have to be big. And this is really, really, really important. Okay, so let me roll back to advisory. What is advisory and you can be this intimidating umbrella of the universe of I got to get their entities, right. And I’ve got to tell them the right technology, and I got to tell them apps stop. When you do a tax return. Do you stop for five minutes and go? Is there anything else I see they can do here? That’s advisory. Now some of you do that. Some of you don’t. We all know plenty of practitioners that just go and throw it out. And they say, Well, if there’s a did you miss something? It was like they didn’t give me the form. So I don’t know. Well, that’s not who we want to be. Pause, look and go. Do you want to do a retirement account? Hey, did you have mileage just Take a moment. That’s the incubator for an advisory. Then when you go, you know what, guys, it’s been two and a half years now and you still have never done a retirement account or you’ve never written off a vehicle or you’ve never done the Augusta rule or whatever you want to say whatever you think. Tell them how they can do that this year, you switched it to Proactiv. You know, great software, you hate that software, you love this software, and you tell them why you’ve advised them on software, you have all this wonderful insight, just start telling them, just start finding a way to help them now if you bill by the hour, it’s really easy. You set a meeting, you discuss it, you build, we do a fixed fee service, we do a subscription service, and we do project stuff. So we have a different pricing model, but it’s whatever fits what you’re trying to accomplish. And I would then say before you go completely nuts and try to give all the advice and Accountant Connect is amazing. The tools that are out there, you don’t have to even use a tool. Now we do we love going into accountant connect and noodling up a number and saying, Hey, all this metric. But it’s, it’s just using knowledge and sharing it with your client to start with. And then as you get going, and this is extremely important. You talked about this in your session is who’s a good client? What’s Who are you trying to help? And Who you trying to serve? If you want to help everyone, you’re really helping No one. Who are you best suited for? Do you happen to have accidentally have a ton of knowledge in trucking? Go help truckers, it’s Who do you want to help? You know, I really like beer. So I think I want to help some breweries. Breweries man, great. I love helping physicians. I love I know what the impact they make in other people’s lives, how many lives they literally save how hard they work, they make good earnings. So don’t get me wrong, it’s still there’s a business model. But it’s if I help a physician be more successful, they can be in practice longer, which then can help other people. And it has this extrapolation effect. So we’re working on building a model where we can coach and teach CPAs this business advisory, not there yet, hold tight. But we’re trying to we’re trying to build our procedure manual in a way that we can give it to a CPA and help them and my theory is and this is my big angle version. If I help one CPA in my career, started advising all of their clients. How many clients that guy have look at that report? 300? Yeah, I helped 300 families by helping one CPA. Absolutely. That comes back to my mission. My mission is, if and you we’ve talked about this before, if I’m at work, it has to matter. What’s my barometer of matter? If I’m not with my wife, and kids, it pet her freaking count. Yes. And so if I can go in and help, that’s why I speak that’s why I go on stage, I can help 500 people, it’s not because look at me, it’s right. I’m in a room and I can help 500 people in one shot. That’s impactful in my work matters.

Dawn Brolin 22:50
That’s world changing. You know, at the end of the day, that ripple effect goes hard.

Sean Duncan 22:53
Oh, yeah. And you could be you stood up in front of the room ago, did you know short term rentals are actually considered active income? Wait, what I thought rentals were passive, not subject to the passive loss rules. Did you know that? Did you not know that? Guess what, you know what? Now, you can use that to tell someone. And it’s this constant little cycle of learning. And it’s again, I get excited about it. Because every time I learn a little gem of something, I’m thinking about who needs to know that it’s advisory. That’s all it is. It’s not it’s not this massive project. Just start helping people. And you were an advisor. Congratulations, you’ve graduated to advisory because he gave somebody suggestions.

Dawn Brolin 23:31

Sean Duncan 23:32

Dawn Brolin 23:33
Advisory, I think came from the word advice.

Sean Duncan 23:36
I believe it’s from its Latin roots of ad-vice…

Dawn Brolin 23:38
Advice. That’s the that’s the acronym for the whatever. So anyway, yeah. So So with that, too, I would imagine what’s really nice being able to do the adviser people, putting clients in the best position you can help them be in. And for us, we were at people, it’s all good. Doesn’t matter. But for us, I mean, I don’t know about you, we’ll just talk for a hot second about rev share. But I don’t know about you, Shawn. But listen, number one, I don’t want to deal with payroll. Some of you that are listening, love to do your own payroll, you’ve got your own payroll service going and you love it. And, and I love that you love it. And that’s fine. But for people who are more driven on that advisory work, or, you know, just want to ship their business, and I’ve talked to some people here who are I don’t want apparel anymore. Great. I look at it that listen. I’ll refer clients to them. I would still want my hands on it. I want my eyes on it still, but I don’t want to do the actual technical work of the payroll. Not only that, but ADP will pay me to bring them clients and customers. Now for me. I love that because when a client calls me and says or sends me Hey, Brolin, I got a notice from the Connecticut Department of Labor which by the way is so freakin far behind in the filing I chugged my choke them out. And so I get the notices from Canada. I get it from my own payroll, but I go in and I go and enter that service requests. But when I do it for a client, I don’t charge them for that. Right? It’s not it’s not that’s not a value added service to deal with that. So ADP pays me referral fee for for bringing them business and that covers any of that extra work I may need to do. And it also can help you buy a boat! I don’t know if you knew that.

Sean Duncan 25:19
Apparently it is!

Dawn Brolin 25:20
It’s an alleged thing!

Sean Duncan 25:21
A little extra money seems to be available to use for whatever you choose to do.

Dawn Brolin 25:25
Whatever you’re just it’s so weird, like, I don’t know.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by


Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals live from Scaling New Heights 2021 discovers the Ultimate Bookkeeping Solution with bookkeep™, CEO, Jason Richelson.


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Dawn Brolin 0:04
Well, hello, everybody. And welcome back to the DM Disruption. We’re here to talk about action where you take action with your business. And I found a new app! I found a new app at Scaling New Heights, bookkeep! Jason Richelson, with me today to talk about where did this come from? And where have you been my whole life and that kind of stuff. So introduce yourself. Tell us what is doing on the accounting.

Jason Richelson 0:29
Yeah, okay. My name is Jason Richeson. And I started with bookkeep. We started actually as a bookkeeping firm. We still have bookkeeping customers we basically started to try and automate the entire bookkeeping process. And the one thing that we figured out that wasn’t being done is all these losses that are hitting your bank account. So restaurant, we serve a bunch of restaurants. So you’ve got GrubHub DoorDash. And basically, we’re like, we got to put these properly, we got to log into the system, we got to get the logins and we realized that this is becoming a bigger, bigger problem with restaurants, every single app that you see every single tablet, or deposit in your bank account. When you’re doing Shopify, there’s up to 10 famous types of Shopify stores. And as a bookkeeper, you will have to properly book sales. So that’s essentially our software does, it’s really to help CPAs small bookkeepers, big bookkeepers, automate that process so they don’t have to do it. Wait a second, what is this Door Dash cost, what are the fees, are there sales tax in there? Wait, I lost my login and I need you to get it back to me. When you connected with us and stays connected, we capture the data, we post it properly, we make sure to always reconcile to the deposits. So we essentially automate all that for you on a daily basis.

Dawn Brolin 1:48
So that’s awesome. But I do, obviously, people know I do a lot of IRS representation work. And one of the key areas that they focus on in their audits are really driven from revenue. Right? They don’t necessarily want of course, if you’re throwing expenses into the tax year, and they’re all even numbers, that’s kind of a red flag, right. But when it comes to gross revenue, and making sure we’re not posting, we’re not taking sales tax into account as income, right? You’re mapping all of that.

Jason Richelson 2:12
Yeah, yeah. And actually, what I’ve learned from this conference is one of our biggest competitors is that a lot of accountants are just booking it as revenue, because it’s too hard to figure out what it is. And either they can’t get the owner to give them a login or the client for its, I don’t want to login and figure this out. So so we automate that. So really getting the word out that we do this is really kind of what we’re doing is like, Oh, I didn’t know I could do that.

Dawn Brolin 2:36
Well, it looks awesome! I have a client on Fisher’s Island, New York, and she’s a small boutique, and she has QuickBooks point of sale. But she also has online sales, and she uses Shopify for online sales. And what we find is to get that information directly out of Shopify and then into QuickBooks has been really a pain for her. So this is like a big deal for those retailers who are trying to and especially the, we don’t want to do the stuff that you’re doing. Because there’s no value add on transaction management, right? Your transaction management is a thing of the past. You know, prior to all these great applications and solutions. We had to hand key we were hand keyers. That was it. It’s not like that anymore. So why did you stop, you so you started bookkeep? And you just saw this need? Oh, my goodness, the volume!

Jason Richelson 3:21
I, and I should say this before I start, I was at Shopkeep.

Dawn Brolin 3:24
Oh Shopkeep! Everyone knows shop!

Jason Richelson 3:28
Yeah, so shopkeep was, so I have a huge amount of experience building the front end system. And actually, one of the last things I did at Shopkeep before I moved was to build the accounting integration. So I always, even on my stores, I built that integration into Quick Books two year agos. So I’ve always known. I just realized, oh, where we want accountants is to really think about us as their outsourced data entry automation department, right. So we actually have a new program just for this show. It’s $99. Unlimited, if you have to be a pro advisor, really certified, it’s your business…

Dawn Brolin 4:10
You want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Pro advisors know what they’re doing.

Jason Richelson 4:14
Exactly, well we want to build a business, if they have their own business. Not be afraid of E commerce not be afraid oh they’re using Stripe, they’re using PayPal, I don’t want to touch it. Just make the connections, make it flow properly. And if you have problems or things and we know your CPAs literally CPAs on customer care, I also see those chats. I mean, as we get bigger, but we’re hiring people who know what bookkeepers do and they’re smart, but really our focus is that. Whereas integration to QuickBooks, it doesn’t work if….so we know both sides of it, we understand what’s weird with QuickBooks, what are you doing with the account that we were trying to post to? Why is square, what Square data count? Well, Square’s API is down….

Dawn Brolin 5:11
That is a big deal. That’s a big deal. That’s what I was I was talking fishbowl a little bit earlier that when you have a software solution that knows both sides of the transaction, they know, we know the bookkeeper side, we also know the QuickBooks side, that relationship is a better relationship than there are other applications where they know their side is what we integrate, we do this but but then when you have a problem with the way it comes into QuickBooks, and you’re looking in the QuickBooks, if you don’t have the expertise, and you have a vendor that doesn’t have that expertise, you might want to think twice, because you’re able to support us in that way.

Jason Richelson 5:46
And support you the proper way I gave I gave a talk yesterday about accounting integration, that I use so many apps, myself and my own business and with our clients, you know, things like the sync button, you click the sync button, the payroll system, and then it posts another journal entry. Like it says sync, it should be syncing, matching with my audit trail should go to the same entry and I have a trail that they post, because they just don’t even get it what do you have to do every day? Right? And then cleaning that up? And then you can’t find the link to that journal entry that they posted? Where is it now I got to search for it. Ours, our system, it’s back and forth, we can send you back into QuickBooks in the right place. Does that mean our QuickBooks back to Shopify or square to the right place? Before a wrong the journal entry? Eventually, yep, data in our journal entries and all sorts of sales receipts in your future that tell you this is a sales summary from this exact time period if your timezone is off? Why is this not matching? Your timezone? Your sales summary is this, and you have your batch setup wrong, which is why those aren’t matching. So you’ll be able to figure that out without having to go back to Square or Shopify.

Dawn Brolin 6:51
And that’s a huge deal. Because when it comes to those same, the same, and how it comes in is so important. You’re crazy. So Michelle, so far, you know, and how this all works. I know for me, so many times the data is coming in and it’s not necessarily coming in right in the vendor doesn’t know how to help us solve for that. And you guys have that figured out. And I see that happens all the time. When it comes to retrieving information, shove it into QuickBooks. So we’re really excited to work with you guys and get the word out. Listen, people, if you have not figured out yet, the transactions are going to come into QuickBooks, not by your fingers, it’s going to come in through a solution like bookkeep, that’s going to give you the data that you need to drive and drill down if that’s what you need. So it’s been awesome, Jason, you’re talking to you. And there’s an emergency, which is totally fine. And so what I want to thank everyone for listening and we’ll talk to you guys soon. Here we are with We’ll talk to y’all soon. Bye bye.

Transcribed by


Episode Summary

Dania Buchanan, President, SmartVault Corporation, talks about embracing the hybrid working culture, work life balance, and how SmartVault is helping accounting firms make the most of all of the new opportunities available to them.


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Dawn Brolin 0:05
Alright everybody. Hello and welcome back to another episode of the DM Disruption with myself, Dawn Brolin is your host and I’m here with Dania Buchanan from SmartVault. Now if you know me, you know, I’m a SmartVault girl, because I’m smart. So I use smart vault. I don’t use dumb vault, I use smart vault that makes sense. Right. SmartVault was a great presence at Scaling New Heights didn’t you know, amazing? Yeah, you know, I think four or five people there anyway. And it just, it was awesome. But we really missed, I’m not gonna lie.

Dania Buchanan 0:34
The team was excited to get on the road for sure. The team was very excited. I think that was the biggest conference we’ve been to so far. I think the sales team went to one of the Florida CPA conferences last week. But they all said Acaling New Heights was wonderful. And it really makes me happy. Yeah, that everybody came out. Yeah.

Dawn Brolin 0:55
Well, there’s such so many really great things that are happening. And you and I kind of just talked a little bit before we went live here, but just talking about people getting back together again, and how important that is. And, you know, just been through like you say, normal. Tell me tell me what you said before because it was perfect. Like just normal. It’s normally just over the top.

Dania Buchanan 1:15
Yeah, I think people are desperate for physical connection with other people. Because this is a service oriented group. Right, right. Accounting, accountants, professional accountants provide a service. I know, they don’t have to provide it live. But they’ve built their practices in their businesses on relationships. So they are relationship driven in their core, no matter if they do it remotely or in person. But I do think the tribe of accounting professionals is a really tight knit group. So I think they were looking for a chance to go give each other some high fives, and in, in a fun way, but I think in a more meaningful way, just to give each other a hug and say, hey, you know, I’m sorry, for the hard time that you’ve gone through, I think, no one, you know, this has been a shared experience globally. And there’s no one no human that has been left untouched by by some component of it. So I think there’s also that which is makes the whole tribe such it’s such a cool bunch, man.

Dawn Brolin 2:25
And we did, we had a really good time. And it was, again, just great to see each other and, you know, seeing I mean, really smart. Like you guys are all part of our families, right? So we all want to say, like gravitate to certain applications in their teams, because of who they are. And you’re like, Oh, my goodness, it’s so good to see you like IV. I hadn’t seen it in a while. So it was great to be able to see him and he’s just such a great a great sport. And we did have a great interview. So Fritz and I and IV and I had a couple short short recordings that we did that we’re gonna be able to get out there onto the DM Disruption as well, yeah, so we just…

Dania Buchanan 3:02
Both good talkers, yeah, both great guys.

Dawn Brolin 3:04
Just intelligent. We talked a lot about like customer service. And, and just being there and having that for drive like smart ball. You know, and I don’t I, I’m not gonna say anything, because I’m not really sure Fritz told me I could or couldn’t say anything. But, you know, just knowing you guys have acquired a couple of additional applications that might be moving in some new directions. Not new directions. But…

Dania Buchanan 3:24
Yes, yeah. So we bought last month, we did two technology acquisitions. And we looked, we just we just literally whiteboard workflow, we whiteboard upcoming professional workflow, like, where could we plug in features that will augment and make the workflow more efficient? So we came up with two one? You just mentioned quoters, right, which is a cloning feature, which is brilliant. So if you’re not using an electronic quoting tool you need to be so we’re gonna bundle one in natively. So there was a little technology acquisition we did there and the other one was dock down, which is form fill, which IV will tell you, Daniel will tell you we’ve been asked about for years now. Right, which is this profession in any other professional services profession is going to have want someone to fill in a form, right? And they’re going to want to know that part of their DMS. So both of those pieces of technology. We’re hoping we’ll do a proof of concept hoping by mid next year, so once every one emerges from tax season, maybe have a couple of beta features for customers to try and then into production towards the end of next year. Yeah…

Dawn Brolin 4:44
Super exciting, it is super exciting. And like I always say to people, listen, if your software providers are not moving forward, they are moving backwards so they’re not looking for, you know, what problem can they solve next, right, you’ve already got the document storage nailed down. That’s just solid like you can’t beat that. and being able to move to another sector or another segment. And I think you’re right, you’re not using quoting electronic quotes, like, you know, and I teach a lot about that in the book is to say, listen, you know, you got to be sending out quotes, you got to have a place people can go get their tax returns, and I tell people this, I charge 100 bucks to print your tax return. If you can’t go in line, log in and grab it yourself, then come on, man, like now you’re just thinking I’m your mom or something. Right?

Dania Buchanan 5:27
But that is an example of not valuing your time at zero, your time is not valued at zero. So your time has a value on it, you have now provided an assisted way where customers can go get their own information. If they don’t want to go that route, then your time is still not valued at zero, right? I’m happy to go print it for you. It’s $100. Yeah, good for you. Yeah, we’ve been encouraging customers to figure out how to pass on the charge for smart light, you are providing a service so that at any point in time, I can go look at the K1 that I uploaded in my vault from 2013. That is a service you’re giving your customers that document portal that secure. That’s a service that’s not valued at zero in mind, right?

Dawn Brolin 6:14
No, it’s not, no it isn’t. And people will, you know, they’ll email me and say, Oh, hey, I need a copy of my 2019 W2 , and I just go click, send link, done. Yeah, like that. If you can’t, if that doesn’t work for you all I need you to go for I don’t even remember, honestly, last time, somebody asked me to print it for them. But I also I charged them on every quote that goes out for tax returns, they get a $35 technology fee, everybody pays it, no one’s ever complained. I’ll say no one.

Dania Buchanan 6:43
So done. When you go by your when you bought your red sox tickets, you did it online, you were charged a service fee, a convenience fee, a ticket fee, whatever, you were charged for the technology that allowed you to buy your ticket online. This is common practice. But what I think happens is typically some of the accounting profession not all have been have shied away from charging for a valuable service that they provide. So again, it’s like where do you value your time, your time is worth something. So and it’s nominal fee, and most will pay that for the convenient convenience fee. That’s the, that’s my favorite word that they charge.

Dawn Brolin 7:28
Okay, it’s true. It was convenient, you know, darn it. You know, you don’t want that. But you do so yeah. And I mean, over the last year and a half, when we do talk about this a lot about what you know, what changes, we all had to make a change in some capacity. Everybody did, whether it was okay. My customer, my client doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the office. So how are we going to sign documents like, thank goodness that I had already had that all nailed down with, you know, Lecert, Smart Vault to DocuSign. So I have a system, and I was good, but there were so many that weren’t. And I watched them on social media, you watch the people who are like, I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore, which is a funny segue to talk a little bit about your son, because people have made shifts and made changes and did something totally different than they were used to doing. So tell us about that, this is awesome.

Dania Buchanan 8:19
So for your listeners, right, my son, I think he came to two conferences, which no one will remember I don’t remember but anyway, long story short is he graduated University of Texas as a film student he went into filmmaking documentary filmmaking To be specific, had a had a short couple of years of getting documentaries made and out there. He came to a couple of the accounting shows as the videographer to film customer interviews and things were which is where you and some others have seen him. Anyway, long story short 2020 hits, right he is has three I think productions in flight all came to a grinding halt. Well, he’s not he’s early in his career so he doesn’t have a big tranche of money sitting in a savings account he can go draw from right so not knowing when there’s an end to all of this he decided to go back to school got himself into a UTS grad program and Masters of Public accounting and will sit for his CPA next spring so who graduated in May which is I have this very right brained kid this filmmaker kid but if for any of you don’t know the five minutes or five second version of documentary filmmaking when you’re on a fairly low budget million $2 million, right he did all the accounting work himself. You have to start an LLC, you have to pay payroll, you have to hire people, you have to file quarterly taxes on any they get grant money, they get donation, money, etc. And so I was just telling Dawn before we started recording, the class they should teach you in film school is how to manage a film, a low budget film. They don’t teach you that. So anyway, long story short, his big pivot is going back and getting his CPA so that he can support the media and entertainment industry, primarily the independent filmmakers. And those guys, really, they end up losing money. They don’t know what to do. They’re a little lost in the business side of it, they can all make a movie for sure. They’re all super talented. So that’s an example. Like you were saying earlier, none of us escaped impact from this the smart vault business. Like many employers, right, we sent everybody home may, March 13, I think Friday the 13th, when everything started unwinding, we ordered monitors for everybody be set up at home and thinking it was going to be a couple of months. Who knows. We ended up hiring. I think it’s close to 30 people just over the pandemic. Wow, people we know buddy shared physical space with. So no. So we definitely, you know, grew right that we provided a service that all of a sudden was a core part of the tech stack. Not not a nice to have a must have must have. So yeah, I must have. We had odd industries coming into we had ISD’S and school districts coming in we had sold to universities and colleges in the past, but not not at the ISD level. But of course, you’ve never had a time where teachers and administrators were sent home and they still have to process new hire paperwork and just a million things. Yeah, so this work has changed forever. I think employee employers like us will continue with a hybrid or remote policy. I’m sitting, we’re sitting in the office, I’m sitting in an office today, we have a really cool office down in the middle of the Houston Heights area, which for anyone who’s ever been to Houston, very cool area of town. But we have I would say maybe 60% of everybody hear you know, everyone comes in maybe a couple days a week. And some weeks, you know, some weeks not. So we have very, very flexible hybrid schedule. And that meets the needs of our think there’s we have such a young workforce too. They like to hang out together and eat together, you know, socialize together. So I think kind of the hybrid seems to seems to fit us but yeah, some some tough decisions along the way, for sure. And some pivos.

Dawn Brolin 12:34
Definitely. and that’s amazing to me, and I honestly never really thought about it before. But you’re right, like a school system, or just anyone who needs to be managing documents when you can’t be physically in front of each other handing them out.

Dania Buchanan 12:48
And they’re notoriously paper based, right? They have administrators with big rooms of filing cabinets and all these papers file. And, you know, there’s the whole FERPA thing with being able to protect your student information. And that is certainly a compliance mandate, right. So they had to get comfortable, they had to pull their IT guys and they have very legacy systems. For all of the accountants that might watch this, you think you’re behind like the ISPs way back, and they’re not even on this. I’m sorry, any ISD is watching this…

Dawn Brolin 13:23
It’s just us being honest, we’re always honest on the DM Disruptions, so don’t worry.

Dania Buchanan 13:27
Face your truth, face your truth!

Dawn Brolin 13:29
Face it, it is what it is. And the great part about is you can shift and you can change and you did that you they do that that was a really difficult time. You know, think about the school system and the kids and just, it’s been wicked. I know, for us from the you know, college level, even that, you know, we’re still Yeah, still getting through that, you know, with all these mandates that are going on, and too many places, in my opinion, whatever, but not not going to get into that but just, there’s just so, everything is just

Dania Buchanan 13:57
It feels very chaotic.

Dawn Brolin 13:59
I mean, kid and I see it kids are struggling going back to the classroom, even at the college level, I can’t even imagine a younger level, where they’re just like, I just can’t go to class, like I just don’t, I just don’t not comfortable. It’s not even really that they’re afraid, but it’s just they’re just, they’re just uncomfortable. You know, it’s like, it’s really tough to watch that, you know, and they have it’s really tough, you know, I mean, I just love sports, I love to talk about sports, but we’re really the college level really got hit hard, you know, at the professional level or even the D 1 level they had money coming out their ears, they could do different things to battle the challenge there right and for us we’re D3 levels so we just don’t have the funding support. You know, we raise all of our own money to do everything, I mean to buy a pair of shoes we all we have to everybody buys our own right.? So that’s been really hard to watch and you know, think about 15, 20, 30 years from now and you know, I’m not even here but one of those ports, you know, they got to maneuver and it’s hard!

Dania Buchanan 14:57
It’s hard I, we have seen Well, I talked about my son who’s now going to be an accountant. So anybody want to offer him a job next summer? He’s,….

Dawn Brolin 15:07
He’s up for it! And he knows he knows remote technology.

Dania Buchanan 15:11
Oh certainly he does! Well, we’ve watched this generation, right this mid 20s generation, they’ll change the dynamic of the workforce coming in that I can’t I shouldn’t call them kids. The younger kids Smart Vault work staff, right. Sure come in and they they just don’t accept an old way of doing things right. Data’s always on, everything’s always available. You were talking about college aged kids and professors and I have one of those two, I think our girls are about the same age. Yeah, I had a daughter who finished her senior year in university from her apartment bedroom in Austin, right. That’s not that you were talking about. I mean, that’s, that’s hard. And that is allowed a level of mental anxiety I think for a generation that is, you know, feels robbed. You know, they all lost internships, they all lost. They, their tracks that they thought was so defined was just was just blown away, just blown away. And so they, I think the resiliency that they’ve had to show the coping skills they’ve had to develop will take them the rest of their lives. I told him I no doubt once you have built this level of coping skills, you’re you’re unstoppable at this point on it. Yeah, you’re unstoppable. But you’re talking about sports. I think there’s nothing I’m as a sports person two. And I think we also went and saw some playoff games right at Minute Maid and I think in a climate like we have been in the last two years, nothing brings together a community of people than rooting for a common team. Doesn’t matter. Everything that you that divide, you falls away, right. And everyone fiving and hugging everyone, you’re thinking at the d3, the D one, the the college level two table sports also, like, what do we have to cheer for? What? Where is that unifying element? Right. We missed that for the better part of year two. And I think it all just, it just is a pylon, you know, it’s way up here. And you just, Where’s, where’s all that fun?

Dawn Brolin 17:19
Yeah, absolutely. No, you’re totally right. And I think, you know, with that these kids, this this group that are that are fighting through things we didn’t have to fight through, which I think sometimes which makes us crazy, because we’re just like, Dude, we would leave our house first thing in the morning, we’d be home when mom rang the bell at like, eight o’clock at night for dinner, or whatever it was, you know…

Dania Buchanan 17:38
We would say don’t come home until 5pm. Please stay gone!

Dawn Brolin 17:45
Oh, man, you’re playing a sport because you’re not coming home early from school. You’re not getting out to 10 You’re saying, fine. Pick a sport, pick a club. I don’t care what you do, but don’t come here. And so, you know, for us, I think, you know, and I know because, you know, I have two girls, and they’re 22 and 23. So, you know, just knowing it’s like, they just, I feel like they depend on us a lot more. And I’m like, Dude, I didn’t have to do this for my kids. You know, my dad never did this for me. You know, it’s like, okay, we we got to just understand that we have a gap between you know, those mid 20s, early to mid to late 20s. And then I’m 51. And I’m not afraid to say that. But you know, it’s like we just we don’t have the same thing. So I find that it’s when they were teenagers. It was easy. Right? And now that they’re in college or graduate just graduated as well. Yeah. And she and she went back we set her back to American University. For her senior year she came home right when we, you know, everybody had to go home on March 3, right? Then that next fall? She’s like, I’m like, what are you gonna do? No, in no in classroom at American University, they never reopen the classrooms. They couldn’t even go on campus in 2020. I don’t like and you want the same money? Like okay, get me started on that. Okay, you’re not even your electric bill just went back down by 70%. Because you’re not lighting up all those buildings, your you know, your you don’t need your guys to mow the grass. You don’t let anybody on campus? What’s their look at? So, you know I have some of those phone calls.

Dania Buchanan 19:11
No tuition concession at all, none.

Dawn Brolin 19:13
And I’m just like, so we decided we were going to focus on what was best for her. And so we set her back down, but she had an off campus apartment anyway, she had already been on an off campus. So we set her back because I’m like, you know what, you still need to be around your friends. You need to have challenges with your friends. You need to have, like, you can’t stand each other for a couple of weeks or whatever. That’s what the college experience. That’s part of it how to deal with people. Right? And you know, they didn’t miss a beat with the technology. The kids.

Dania Buchanan 19:41
Oh, no, no, my daughter did. Her job was the incoming freshmen like she was the orientation leader and that her job was the summer before her senior year when we all went home. Right? And so they just told the leaders figure out how to do it remotely. and still deliver a freshman experience. So she just like, hey, I’m gonna figure out how to do it remotely and make the Zoom meetings fun and all of that. And she figured it out. They do. They’re resilient. I think we’re in good hands with this with this wealth generation, like, they’ve never really had a lot of adversity. And then they got a whole bunch of bunch dropped on.

Dawn Brolin 20:22
And I think that that’s a really important point. So number one, the shift of your son moving towards the accounting industry and understand that there’s a need there for that for film and, and theatre and those kinds of those kinds of organizations, which is awesome. So think about this practitioners, you’re listening to the podcast here, right? Guess what you need to be doing, if you’re not doing it already? You need to be accepting into your brain, opening up the coconut and saying, I need to make sure I have the technology in place, because if you want to hire talented people, you want to hire people that can work independently, you better have the tools in order for them to do that. And that’s the whole point. It’s like, you know, I know for myself, I just been striving to get a well oiled machine. You know, since when I was 1999. When I first started, I knew when I had my kids, I wanted to be remote, I was in a bad partnership where they didn’t believe that because they didn’t have kids and blah, blah, blah. So I left there knowing I wanted to spend time with my kids. So that was my main focus was being able to, you know, be wherever I wanted to take a kid to New York City for the for a week of camp, I did that I took the other one out to Seattle to another one down to Florida went swimming with dolphins. Because I knew if I can become more efficient and more profitable, I could enjoy those things I’d have the money to pay for, and I have the time to do it. And so that’s the whole message of the Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals is not just have a well oiled tech stack, so whatever. No, it’s because you know why you need to be living. We have to take and this is a thing, Danny, we all we always say this, I think when there’s change, it’s changes hard. But but what’s at the other end of the rainbow is worth every moment you put into it right?

Dania Buchanan 22:00
Every moment. You only have one one shot at this life. But to your point about addressing the the constituency of your listeners, right. So I have a kid in his mid 20s Who pivoted right interest that that’s only interesting to some people. I think it’s his group of this the that MPA program. So he said a University of Texas, the business, red McCombs School of Business, so super competitive to be in there, this profession is about to get a lot of incoming. My sons, right, right. They’re coming in, they’re tech savvy. And they want so his first couple of questions on all the interviews he went on, right? What’s your remote policy? What kind of tech tea like how am I enabled, they’re coming in, they’re coming in ready to work, for sure. Coming in with high work standard high level of ethics, but they’re coming in knowing that they’re going to bring some change in and if you want to have a smart person on your team, you need to enable them to do their best and most vibrant work wherever they they choose to do it. And that’s what the smart vault team here operates. And my commitment to the team is to I’m just enabling a bunch of smart people to do their work. It’s not all on me, right? More help us. So this is that’s my commitment. I’m here to provide a culture and an enablement path for you to do the best and most vibrant work of your career. It’s not up to me to dictate the place you sit to go do that, right. Sometimes you guys want to come in the office work, play cornhole in the at the end of your day, and go out or whatever. And sometimes you want to do that at home where you can have dedicated focus time. But that’s what this generation is looking for. That is what they’re looking for. So if you’re a forward thinking accounting professional, it’s not just have a tech stack that it creates efficiency for your own practice. But eventually, you’ll have to have a succession plan. Eventually, even if you don’t want to grow your practice anymore, and you’re not you don’t need to be efficient because you want to hire my son or anyone else. Right? That’s 25, he’s actually 27, so..

Dawn Brolin 24:24
He just seems like a little baby still.

Dania Buchanan 24:26
eventually, there’s an eventuality to your own financial planning, right? So I’m sure that when you go value a business, it’s a lot easier for you to go sell your business if everything is nice and tidy. The clients are there their 10 years of documents are there for the acquiring firm. I would say that’s that’s that’s pretty good value there.

Dawn Brolin 24:50
That’s exactly one of my biggest points for me is I’m you know, I’m I don’t want to work until I’m 75. I just don’t I got things I want to do. I know, I know I want to be I want to be out there. I don’t know I want to be on a 45 foot boat that I buy and I can learn how to drive it myself. I don’t want to depend on anybody else, right? So I have things that I want to do I want to, you know, my daughter’s gonna be moving to LA actually because she’s a she’s a musical theater and film major. She graduated with that. So she said, Mom, I’m going for it. I’m going to go out and, she’s leaving in January. She’s like, I’m going to go for it. I just, I if that’s not what I meant to do, like your son. She’s like, the maybe I’m just helping out maybe I’m an Assistant Producer, maybe I’m a maybe I get the coffee. She’s like, I don’t care. I want to be in the industry in some way. She definitely doesn’t want to do accounting, we’ve had her she, I tried. She both of my girls are like Mom, no! Stay away from me!

Dania Buchanan 25:48
She’s gonna work 80 hours a week on some sleppy film set, trust me, versus what you guys are doing? Not working 80 hours a week, right? But providing a service, that’s a professional service, she may change your mind when when the financial equation comes into the picture.

She’s very altruistic Oh, so my daughter who graduated with her, she’s 22. She’s going getting her certification to go teach. Because she sees she feels a little bit called right. I even though I think she’ll probably love the teaching, but hate the parents, but she’s got high school English, right? But you know, you just kind of, you have to encourage them to pave their own way. But you’re gonna want to go see her in Los Angeles and do the same amount of work in Los Angeles. And you can do that, because you’ve got a tech stack and an automation and efficiency in your practice that let you do that.

Dawn Brolin 26:43
Absolutely. And that’s, you know, that’s what we it’s just so true from a value pricing perspective of your business itself. When I’m able to say okay, here you go, here’s my login. They’re like, Oh, but yeah, it’s all right there. And here it is, um, I am very confident that we’ll get more money for my business because of how organized it is, as opposed to somebody walking in with a million file cabinets. And not even knowing which clients in the file cabinets or current clients or old clients were smart ball, I can just be like, oh, let’s move into an archive folder. Let’s get them out of here and archive them away. So that the only thing that’s in my folders are live clients that are these are people you need to deal with. And you’ve got, you know, I’ve got carbon for my workflow. So they can, everything’s in there, whatever thing we’ve been doing, is right there. And so, you know, I think and I think honestly, at the end of the day, the document storage is probably the most important, because it does hold all of that history, it has everything that you need to be able to evaluate a client and move on. And so, you know, for us, that’s just a no brainer. And we’re, you know, so excited to always be, you know, improving our process and bringing on new client bringing on new vendors. I mean, we just found this app called bookkeeper. And it basically it syncs with square, and all your like WooCommerce e commerce types of stores. Yeah. Oh, my God in this, my good buddy, my Tom used to work it into it. He’s part of their crew. Now. He’s so awesome. But I went there. And I went with it with the open mindedness to find some new apps that I might not know about, right. I don’t know everything, and I don’t. So I went there. And I saw this and I’m like, Oh, my goodness, we were just harping over a client, who has square Pay Pal, and all these things. And then we’re going into booking journal entries. And yet we’re, like, my one of my team was not booking it as a gross income and then minus fees. And I’m like, it’s so simple! But why are we someone’s transaction?

Dania Buchanan 28:36
Somone’s problem, right? Someone solved this problem.

Dawn Brolin 28:39
And it was like, automatic. So you know, I and that’s what I love is we’re always looking out for the client, we want to make it more efficient, we want to be more productive, and more profitable. And I want to bring more value, you know, like just them being able to go get their tax return, that adds value for them. You know, they’re not just having their texture and go find it.

Dania Buchanan 28:58
That’s table stakes. Right now, what you’re describing is the tech stack that’s ever growing. We are also a small business, right? We’re just a small business that makes a product called sparkle. But we constantly we have an ops department that is looking at efficiency at every step, right? If we can plug a little piece of tech in, so that we can solve a pain point and make our business more efficient and run faster than absolutely we’re doing that so that we’re not gonna we shouldn’t be debating anymore whether you should adopt tech, right? I think now, it’s an evaluation process. I think that right? Yes, we’re past that 2008 argument. But then I’ll just, but you have to do it. Right? Or you lose confidence in doing it just like what you said, there’s so many like the word app didn’t exist, you know, 10 years ago, like nobody said, apps right? But now it’s like, it’s sort of like working out right. The more you do it, the more confident you are. So always be looking for little tools that you can plug in for a specific part of your workflow to just streamline, even if you only solve it for two clients, and you can find a way to pass that cost along, then the techs paid for and you’re more efficient, you bought an hour back of time, two hours actually high, that goes to your bottom line that is profit for Yeah, from people bring in tech, to drive profitability and growth. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Dawn Brolin 30:29
Definitely, and the client experience is extremely critical. Because if it’s a pain for them, they’re going to go somewhere else, they’re just, if it’s not, you got to make it easy for them, you’ve got to make it, you know, want to be as available as possible to them, but still live a life. And so that’s why you need the tools in order to, you know, satisfy those client needs, but at the same time, be able to take care of yourself a little bit to mentally and physically and things like that. So…

Dania Buchanan 30:53
Are you seeing a change, and I don’t know how I quantify this, I’ll just use you and ice age and younger versus new and ice age and older, older, the younger group, they don’t want to call you. They don’t want it always to be on right. So the older group, so we do, we are sort of in two seasons, I think and a little bit of a transition transitional state when it comes to clients, and what we hear that a lot 20% of my clients are just never going to do this, right. It’s like, I accept that. And maybe that’s acceptable, right? Like, you’re only ever going to get 70% that then every new client that comes in needs to be in the new way of doing business. I absolutely, you know, we have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of customers who tell us that to like, the older clients are just not gonna they want to come in, they want to sign their return and all of that.

Dawn Brolin 31:52
We’ve said greasy, and really amazing adoption from our clients really just, you know, I’m just trying to think of, I think I had, if I had five tax client appointments this year, that would be a lot. That’s, that’s how changed they are. And you know, for those that are still people are still gonna say just lack of a better way to describe it, but they’re still afraid, they’re still afraid of that human contact. And I get that, I get that. So that’s where for me, it’s like whatever I can do to make the experience as best I can for them and as efficient, you know, get quality and value, then that’s what I’m going to do. And we really didn’t we saw, we probably i i was looking at my numbers again the other day, we brought on about 75 new clients in 2020 75. From across the country all over the place all over. Yeah, all over. And it was just like, we’re just we’re looking for somebody that can just, you know, accept our documents and do our tax returns and blah, blah, blah. And it was just insane. And it was awesome. And so now it’s just so automated, I just I can think off the top of my head, I think three people that I pretty sure will come back and come in to the office. And that’s it. And…

Dania Buchanan 33:02
But can 75 become 150. And it doesn’t really tax the firm too much because of the automation? That’s yeah,

Dawn Brolin 33:09
That’s where it goes.

Dania Buchanan 33:10
That’s where you’ve that’s where the payoff is, right is or if if you looked at your whole client base, and you just wanted to work less, right? So it just it just where you’re where your motivation is. I remember learning this early on in my in my career at Smart vault many years ago, where I’m so fueled, because I’ve been in tech my whole life that growth, growth growth, right. And accountants were very quick to say, I don’t want to grow Danya want to work as much like, oh, okay, thanks. Okay, got it. Well, yeah, then you can just work less to if that’s what motivates. Yeah, whatever it is. But I think after this last two years, the work life balance is across the board. Now, I think people now are really got hit with a taste of what is important in life, right? Whether, however, this shared experience happened to all of us, none of us are unaffected. And so I do, it’s made, myself included just re-up on what is really valuable. And work is a component of that, or people wouldn’t work, right, there’s a value that we get out of being needed and contributing in a meaningful way. But those of us myself included, who let work monopolize so much of our of our extra time, that’s starting to get pulled back a little bit. Yeah. And so automation and tech coming in to help you with that balance is really important so that you can go do the things that make you you outside of outside of work. And I think that is been a really big learning if I’m being transparent just for my own personal journey.

Dawn Brolin 34:55
Yeah, no doubt about it. Yeah, I mean, I you know, I just be honest, I don’t Don’t come to work till 10. Like, don’t tell anyone! But I just I’m not a morning person. And it’s not like I just want time for myself in the morning, I literally just want to lay in my bed, watch, Tik Tok, I just do and you know, for half an hour and just…

Dania Buchanan 35:18
But’s that’s your time, right? That’s Dawn time.

Dawn Brolin 35:21
And that’s ok! Guess what? It’s ok.

Dania Buchanan 35:23
That’s right. It is okay. But I think the all of us need to find out whatever that is that balance that that makes us unique and not so stretched, then as a country. I mean, we have an office in London, and I think culturally, you just look at the differences in work ethic is still the same shade just are able to, they put a higher value on their non working life than we historically have. So yeah, just I think to me, that’s a good silver lining for the last couple of years. Just stop back, stop, think what’s important to you, and then structure your life. So you’ve got time for that thing. And technology can help you to do that so easily. Can it really stop pushing the paper man? Yeah, you don’t need to do it.

Dawn Brolin 36:17
Don’t gotta push that paper, which is awesome. Well, Dania, this has been an awesome conversation. I think a lot of people you know, I love the story about your son. I think that that’s just exactly kind of what people need to hear that that’s okay, that, you know, whatever shift people are making, it’s all okay, but we really are all in this together. And, you know, you know, my team role is starting lineup, my whole focus and goal for that is to help all of you out there who don’t have the technology in place, because you feel like it’s a fire hose because you feel like there’s so many decisions to make. Listen, I know what’s working for me, and I’m always looking to improve and improve but you know, it’s really getting that core, that core group those core components of your workflow and within your office and how you’re doing things is what what I’m trying to teach you here on the DM Disruption. So Dania, thank you so much for taking some time with me today. Your you know, we’ve been friends for a long time we’ve been long you know, always always fun to hang out with you. And I did miss you at Scaling New Heights, but I know I will see you in the future for.

Dania Buchanan 37:16
You will for sure! And thanks for having me on any time, love you girl!

Dawn Brolin 37:22
Love you girl, thank you everybody for listening to the disruption will talk to you next time. Thanks so much. Bye bye!

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE joins Jody Padar, The Radical CPA, to talk about how Jody used social media to connect with her community, and how she’s a motivator to those around her. They also discuss how everyone can improve their professional relationships by assuming trust within their colleagues and business partners. Listen now to find out how you can be a better motivator, and how developing trust in those around can better your community as a whole!

How Jody Built A Team of Motivators

Jody talks about how she was an early adopter of social media, and how through that, she was able to foster connections and motivators very quickly. 

When you start connecting to those motivators, then all of a sudden it starts to snowball. So like instead of just being snowflakes now, all of a sudden, you’re really a force to be reckoned with,” says Jody. She credits social media for her success, but specifies a lot of that success comes from the motivators she was able to connect with online.

She also talks about her love for teaching, and how social media has allowed her to teach more people than she ever thought possible.

Getting Back to One on One Connections and Assuming Trust

Dawn talks about how making personal connections can be hard and how many people are suffering in their work relationships. Jody agrees, and points to the issue of not having a developed sense of trust in those you work with, and says the way to solve these issues is to stop assuming people aren’t going to respect you.  

“I think it starts with going into that conversation, assuming they have trust, and assuming both sides are trustworthy,” says Jody.

Jody’s Motivation Success Story

Jody shares her biggest source of happiness is being able to teach so many people, and hearing success stories from people she didn’t know she had an impact on. She shares a story about a person who messaged her on LinkIn, who said they were starting their own firm all because of her advice and teachings. She shares how she never thought it would be possible that her ideas would make such an impact on the people in her community.

Jody also talks about how she still needs motivation from her support team to help move her forward in her life and with her career goals. “Sometimes you need someone else to believe you in before you can believe in yourself,” Jody also shares.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of The Designated Motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

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Jody, tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? What do you like?

Jody Padar 0:53
Hey, Dawn. So I’m Jody Padar the radical CPA, I’m one of probably only few branded CPAs. that’s out there. Right? I didn’t know that he pays could have a brand, but I created one. But I’m a longtime practitioner who has recently joined kind of the other side, right? So I was one of the early cloud adopters, and really early social media enthusiast and really kind of, I’ll say defined or pioneered what the new firm would look like in the cloud. And I did that for 14 years evolving my own firm and, you know, helping other people get to their firms. And to kind of like, I’ll say, again, define what Cloud firms look like. And last year, I joined bot keeper as Vice President of Strategy to take it to the next level. Because like, like, What’s radical? Well, cloud isn’t radical anymore. And the next level radical is artificial intelligence and machine learning. So now, it’s my job at bot keeper to help really firms make that transition and learn how machine learning and artificial intelligence is going to change their firms just like Cloud did so many years ago, so it’s couldn’t be a more perfect job for me. So because I’m always out there teaching and, like sharing. So pretty stuff.

Dawn Brolin 2:04
Absoultley, definitely! And you’re right. I mean, the artificial intelligence conversation wasn’t even a thing 10 years ago, I mean, it’s suitable for you smart people, you for thinkers, of course, right. But you know, and that’s probably one of the interesting things is trying to get this industry we’re like, it’s like push our rope sometimes with them. And, and the whole goal is, we’re not telling them that because we want them to invest in more time and money into something else. We want them to be ahead of the curve. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re doing that and do it very well.

Jody Padar 2:31
For sure! And I think it’s not even about like, everyone thinks that, oh, we’re adopting tech for tech sake, or whatever, because we’re supposed to, but ultimately, it’s about building a lifestyle and having the ability to kind of put time back in your firm and actually get to go home early, or do whatever you want to do grow it, do whatever else because I think so we we get so caught in that, oh, we have to work all these hours. But if we step back, and we automate a lot of stuff, a lot of times we don’t have to work all the hours and we can actually go home on time, which I think is kind of nice.

Dawn Brolin 3:02
Yeah, getting your life back is key. And I think that that’s, you know, if we’re talking about motivation to learn this stuff, whether it’s technology or the AI, the whole entire AI conversation, it’s because we want you to be motivated, not because you’re gonna make more money, like people are really out there saying, I want to make more money, what they want to do is they want to grab their life back. 1% Yeah, if that’s what’s exciting. So with this podcast, my whole goal is to get great motivation messages out to people, and especially in the accounting industry, we really, we need it, we need to remember why we’re doing this, and who we’re doing it for things like that, but really changing lives one person at a time, right? Which is different than motivational speaking, where you’re talking to a big 1000s of people, we’re just trying to get to one person at a time, because that will multiply itself all in of itself. So give us you know, tell us about some motivational moments that you’ve had, that you know that you’ve gone out and help someone else.

Jody Padar 4:00
Well, so I’m gonna take it back to like, my early days and social media, because a lot of people think that social media, like I just came up with 600,000 followers, because I didn’t, right? Like you don’t get 600,000 followers overnight. And in my early days, in Twitter, that’s what I was doing. I mean, I truly was we were connecting with other professionals, but we were motivating each other and we were pushing each other to change and grow and adopt. And I think that’s where, like, I kind of got my, my space that I really love. And it’s because like I have the heart of a teacher, right? And so when I can motivate and teach that I’m happy, and what happens is is you don’t realize that it has such a snowball and a multiplying effect because like you teach someone else and then they teach someone else and then they teach someone else. And I think when you think about even an industry or you know a profession, when you start connecting to those motivators then all of a sudden it starts to snowball. So like instead of just being snowflakes now all of us On, you’re really a force to be reckoned with. And that’s like how social really kind of evolved me and really helped me help move a profession. But I think, again, motivate the profession, right? Because it’s not about selling, it’s never been about selling, it’s about how do I change my firm so I can have time back, right? And what can I do so that I like my job better. And I think if you, if you started from that perspective, then it’s really easy to motivate and help people realize, yeah, we can get through it, if we’re having a struggle on it. Because we know that there’s something better at the end of it. And if you see someone who’s gone before, and you’re helping them, or like they’re helping you, you know, it just keeps going. And it’s funny, because, like you do it, you do it, you do it. And then all of a sudden, you start getting pings back saying, oh my gosh, thank you, blah, blah, blah. And then it’s people you don’t even know who are like telling you that you changed their lives. And you’re like, I, you know, I don’t believe it, right? Like, because you because you didn’t actually touch them, but because you touch someone who touched them. Now, all of a sudden, like you’re making a difference. And to me, that’s kind of what keeps me going, right? Because everyone’s like, well, especially in the early days, I didn’t get paid for any of the social media stuff that I did. It was always just, it was a labor of love. And, and, and that’s what it becomes. Because like when you start affecting people’s lives, then they want to give it back. And then they tell you, and then you know, you kind of feed your ego and you’re like, oh my god, I gotta help more people, because you’re like, like, you have the heart of a teacher. And so then it just becomes a thing.

Dawn Brolin 6:35
Right? Absolutely. And you know, and that’s, that’s one of the things that I find, you know, especially like, you teach a lot of conferences, you do a lot of webinars, you do these things, and you get in front of a lot of people at one time. And you don’t realize the effect, I know that, you know, I’m sure this happened to you too. But I’ve been at a conference, and I’ve done to some kind of a course or class. And you know, we put our heart, soul body, mind, you name it, we put it into what we’re presenting and providing for education, right? And people will come up to you after the session is over. And they’re crying. Like, why are you crying? For like, because I need to hear what you were saying to me. And it’s like, I didn’t even realize I’m just teaching some stuff about fraud. I mean, I don’t know, you know.

Jody Padar 7:17
And I think too, because you put yourself out there, right? So you’re opening yourself up, and you’re sharing. And I think we do it on stage. And we do it in social. But I think when you take it back to if you’re just sitting in your firm, and you do it to the kid sitting next to you or the like the younger professionals sitting next to you, and you help them understand something, it’s the exact same thing, but you’re just doing it at a different level. So, you know, these, these principles can apply to everyone. It’s not like you have to be a speaker or social media person or whatever, you could just be helping the person in the cube next to you. So are like, on the zoom across from you, right? And helping them really understand what what’s happening, because I think too often we get caught in Oh, we got to get it done. And we don’t spend the time to really teach anymore, which is it’s a loss for both sides, because I think it hurts the people who don’t get to receive the teaching. But you know, if you can teach something, it means you really know it too. So it hurts the person who hasn’t had the opportunity to teach because when you learn how to teach, you learn your stuff so much better.

Dawn Brolin 8:23
That’s so totally true. And I love what you said about like the person next to you. So I see, you always talk about the firm of the future. And we talk about the firm of the future and technology and AI and all this, which is important. Don’t get me wrong. But to have a firm that has someone inside of that firm, even if it’s two people, three people, one person, it doesn’t matter. Someone that can be that teacher, in every aspect, say, Liz, I may not be the expert that that Jodi is in AI. But I can certainly ask her how her weekend was and check in on her and say, Hey, how are you doing? Right? And like really having that two, three minute conversation. They people are so thankful for that kind of attention. And that’s where our technology has drawn us a little bit away from that. And I think that they’re the people are suffering, right? They’re suffering. So how can we cause a disruption, which is why we call this podcast with the disruption because it’s about doing something totally different that may be out of your comfort zone, or you never even really realize or recognize that motivation comes from person to person. So tell me tell me what, you go ahead, finish what you were going to say.

Jody Padar 9:32
Well, no. So I think it starts with trust. And I think that’s hard. Right. So I think, ultimately, you know, I think sometimes not everyone is programmed to go into the world trusting everybody else. And I think I’m kind of sometimes I’m at a fault because of it because I’m going to trust you unless you do something to show me that I shouldn’t trust you. Whereas I think there are a lot more people who are more skeptical, who who aren’t so trusting, right? And so if you can go into these relationships, work relationships, social relationships, trusting people before they kind of burn you, right? And they’re not going to burn you. But you, because I think we sometimes have this feeling that, you know, if you meet 100, people 99 are going to burn you, no one is really going to be trusting. But I think in reality, 99 of them are going to be awesome to you, they’re going to respect you, it’s going to work, and only one of them is got a little bit of a sneakiness to him, right. And so I think if you can switch that mindset, and go into kind of your work relationships, these other relationships with a little bit more trust, that I think we’ve kind of guarded ourselves, maybe from the past or whatever, then you can be that designated motivator, and you can also receive it a lot more. So I think it sometimes even goes deeper. Because, like, we don’t, we don’t have the trust. And so we don’t share. And so how do you how do you kind of build that trust? And again, I think it starts with going into that conversation, assuming they have trust, and assuming both sides are trustworthy. And then you can kind of you can have those conversations, because if you don’t, then you’re never going to get beyond that, or to that motivation, because, like everyone’s got their guard up.

Dawn Brolin 11:18
Right, you won’t have the opportunity because they’re not letting it in. Right, right. That’s a good point. That’s a really good point. So on a trust factor thing real quick. I’ve just got to tell you this weekend, I have a little Mazda Miata. It’s my little fun car, you know, it gets like 7000 miles to the gallon. And the prices these days, like mice will use it. So I was driving down Main Street, and there was a man walking on the sidewalk, and I kind of pulled up because there was a light and he’s like, Hey, nice car. And I just looked over at him. older gentleman. I could tell he wasn’t he was I would say displaced. Should we say that way? Might? And I was like, Oh, thank you. I love Yeah, I do. I love this car. And he goes, Are you going to Walmart. And I go, I’m not but I can for you get it? And so I gave the guy a ride to Walmart and I think back and he and I had a little conversation about you. You’re obviously you ask for rides and you’re very, you’re very trustworthy. Like how, like, how did how did you Why do you feel that way? And, you know, he’s like, Oh, I hitchhiked across country back in the 60s and blah, blah, blah. I mean, this guy’s name was John loved him. And so um, but you know, the, his trust in me to invite him into the car, and my trust in Him to invite him into my car as a woman. Right? So I was just like, You know what, I don’t I don’t care. Like I trust this. I don’t want you know, if you Oh, my God, I can’t believe you do that. Are you kidding me? Somebody gave birth to that guy. Like, that’s what I always think in my mind. Somebody gave birth to that guy. And I just had this trust. trustful feeling. Come on, let’s go for a ride. So it’s kind of a similar thing to that. Right.

Jody Padar 12:52
Right. And, and I think too, if, again, if you can go into work relationships, if we’re talking about work, right? If you could go into work relationships, assuming trust, until they prove you differently, then you’re going to be okay to give and receive these kind of DM things. If you go in with your guard up, if you’re never going to get there, because you’re not going to be able to receive it and you’re not going to be able to give it and it’s funny because like, again, I think that’s starts with a mindset, right that I trust them until I until they proven to me that I can’t trust them. Right. And I think a lot of times, not everyone goes into into work relationships like that, right? That’s like kind of a mindset. So I would start there. And for me, that’s, that’s that I’ll say, that’s one of my superpowers, right is like I trust them sometimes to a fault, right. But that’s where the authentic relationships begin. And that’s where you can actually kind of get closer to them, right, a little bit more intimate with them in a professional sense. And kind of, you know, motivate them or really understand their point of view and where they’re coming from and give them that motivation that actually applies to them, as opposed to the generic, great job, or that was amazing. Because, to me, if you just say that’s amazing to everything, that’s worse than saying nothing. Because maybe that’s um, and I don’t want to go into Millennials are not millennials, but to me when I hear that’s amazing with everything. It’s like so it’s like that participation award. It’s like I’ve already like, I just counted it.

Dawn Brolin 14:26
Oh, yeah. Participation certificates. No, no, no, no, no. Right. Right. You’ve got to be all in man.

Jody Padar 14:33
And so you have to be specific and you have to be and you have to be, it has to be really related to who they are and what they do as a person. And if you can do that, then I think, you know, that’s, that’s leadership, right? That’s truly leadership, to have the ability to do that and influence them and to, to to have them understand how good they are and what they can bring to the table.

Dawn Brolin 14:58
Absolutely, yeah. So tell us, tell us a story of you. Because you’ve done so much. I mean, again, even, you know, you’ve taught you teach you, you know, all kinds of levels and things like that. Give us an example of a time where you felt like you really connect with somebody, and were able to give them that motivation to, you know, do something they never thought they could do, or whatever.

Jody Padar 15:18
I think it comes back to a couple of stories. And again, it’s where people reached out to me that I didn’t know that I had an impact on them, right? And then they reached out to me after, right, so like we’d had this, I’ll say, this ongoing, remote relationship, where I didn’t think it was not to say it wasn’t that big of a relationship, but it was like, I don’t know, it was just a regular kind of relationship. I didn’t think that I was having the impact, right. Like, I didn’t think that I was having the impact. And then I got like, an E, I think it was through LinkedIn, and a DM or whatever, telling me that they were quitting their firm, and they were starting a new firm. And it was all because of me, and that they had made the decision to go out on their own. Because the things that I had been talking about resonated with them. And now they were ready to make the leap instead of the jump. And, to me, that’s cool, right? Because, again, it’s one thing to talk about it. But it’s another thing to have that person internalize it so much to know that now they can be successful, and start their own firm, and take the take the leap, right. And I like nobody was there for me when I did it. So it was kind of cool to be there and be like, Oh, I can help you. However, I can, blah, blah, blah. But I think that’s, you know, that’s the neat stuff when when you actually it goes beyond just the compliment, or it goes beyond just the receiving of it, that now they’re actually changing their life because of something you said or did. Right. And that’s what’s cool. And I would say the same thing has happened to me, where, you know, early on in my career, there were some supporters of kind of what I was doing on social and everything. And they had a lot of clout in the accounting industry. And they stood up for me, and they gave me a stage. And they said, Jodi, you go up here and you you talk right? And we’ll make space for you. Right? And when they did that, it gave me an opportunity, right? And so to them, they were my motivation, because I would have been like, oh, no, I don’t like I can’t do that my ideas aren’t that great. They’re like, right, but they were the ones who said, No, your ideas are going to make a difference. And we’re going to make space for you on the stage to talk about it. Right. And so for me, that was where I was motivated by and these were some pretty influential CPAs. They’re still out there. But I would have never like, never thought my ideas were good enough. Other than like to be on the stage, right? Like, Oh, fine, I can talk about them on social, but I’m not going to be at a big conference and talk about them. And they were the ones who said, yeah, no, the profession really needs to hear them, we’re going to, we’re going to make a place for you on the stage. And that was like the motivation that I received. Because it was like, wow, like they actually they believed in me, right. And that was, that was the turning point. Because sometimes you need someone else to believe in you before you believe in yourself. And you can talk all you want, but it’s your own self that holds you back. Because until someone else tells you, that’s a really good idea, and I support you, you you kind of shy away, right? Or you don’t you don’t make those bold moves, right. And then when they say that all of a sudden, it’s like they’re holding your hand, even though they’re not on stage, but they’re holding your hand on stage. So you know that you’re not going to fall, right? Because they’re behind you. And that’s what it does from the other side. Like I’ll say that’s, that’s who’s motivated me, and given me that opportunity that, you know, because everyone thinks, I don’t want to say they think that you just you’re born like this, but you’re not born like this, you have the same fears, the same, the same insecurities that everyone else does, and you need that motivator to stand behind you just as much as you’re standing behind or helping you know, a professional as well. Because that’s how you grow in your career. And if you don’t, like you’re gonna stay stagnant.

Dawn Brolin 19:08
Right. Well, it’s a simple like, it always is. If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backwards, you’re not standing still, there is no such thing as standing still. Right? Um, yeah no, and I really appreciate that because I know for me, I watched people like you I watched Jeannie White House I was I mean I could name all 7 million people. Well listen, we’re saying within our typically 1520 minutes we try to keep it short so people actually watch it and listen to us the fun stuff, but I can’t thank you enough God for coming on as always have fun talking to you. We’ve been on some recent webinars together which has been super fun. And so yeah, so our next episode we’re gonna have James Upton James Upton is the President CEO of Upton accounting great guy. We’re just gonna talk about some struggles through the COVID process and how the industry is just you know, bent affected by it, and see if we can go out there and solve problems with people that are out there struggling. But, Jody, thank you so much for coming and spending time with me. And so we’ll see everybody out there on social and everybody keep your heads up. We’re going to motivate you as much as we can.

Jody Padar 20:11
Yep, keep motivated, thank you!

Dawn Brolin 20:13
Go! Motivate! I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Dawn Brolin, CPA, CFE, sits down with Erron Stark, Division Vice President of Channel Strategy for ADP, to discuss the current challenges many businesses are facing, specifically with hiring staff and employee retention. They speak about how ADP can provide data and solutions for businesses in these challenging times, and allow accounting professionals to provide their clients with a wide pool of information they can use to solve their current business pain points.

Erron’s Introduction

Erron Stark, Division Vice President of Channel Strategy for ADP, is in charge of putting together the program, products, and processes, and does so in a way that can provide value to the accounting community. He acknowledges his passion for helping the accounting community, and knows how valuable that relationship with them can be.

How ADP’s Access to Data Can Help Solve Pain Points

Erron speaks about his experience at Engage, and shares how different the conversations were this year following the pandemic. He talks about how people were hesitant to seek help from ADP, and didn’t want to experience change due to the overwhelming changes they had to overcome following COVID-19.

Dawn agrees, and briefly discusses how ADP can help with benchmarking, and uses restaurant owners as an example of this. She explains that many restaurant owners are having trouble staffing their business, and she explains that ADP can provide the necessary tools and information for business to see what the current hourly wage trends are; ADP has data from everywhere.

Erron adds he’s seen the same trends, and that hiring employees is one of the biggest struggles that many businesses are facing. He says that ADP’s benchmarking data goes off of real time data, and can give businesses accurate information in terms of how to retain employees and also see what local businesses around them are doing. 

Dawn also adds that partnering with ADP allows accounting professionals to give value to all of their clients, rather than just providing payroll. Only looking at payroll data is not enough to keep a business thriving in current times, and it’s up to the accounting professionals to make sure their clients have access to enough information to properly execute plans and procedures to keep their business afloat.

ADP’s Vision for the Future

Nate discusses how ADP strives to always improve the way they present data to their firms. He talks about how it will be a continuous evolution of development, and makes sure they are receiving feedback from the accounting community for how they can best improve. He also talks about how ADP is also striving to help clients with proper regulatory compliance, as this can be difficult for many clients to implement properly.

Dawn also adds that she appreciates how ADP has her back, and can notify her of issues that may arise within her client’s business, such as not properly providing worker compensation and liability insurance.

Erron’s Motivation

Erron shares how he finds his motivation in his family, and also strives to put them in a better position. He also talks about his competitive nature, and credits his experience in sales during college for providing him with his consistent drive. He also shares his passion for always striving to always improve his work, and gets a lot of motivation when he sees success in ADP and in his clients.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM Disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level.

Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping up with payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Alright, so everyone, thank you so much. And welcome to the DM disruption. Super excited today to have Erron Stark from ADP on the show today. He’s just a great guy. We had a really good time at one dinner one time isn’t our best friends. And that’s just how it works, right. But, Erron, welcome to the podcast today. Introduce yourself. Tell us what you do and what you love. Go for it.

Erron Stark 1:12
Yeah. So first of all, thank you for having me Dawn. It’s it’s a pleasure. By the way last week is been a year and a half of being not in person with you is like the culmination of some good things to come. Right. So great seeing you last week. As you mentioned, my name is Erron Stark, division vice president of channel strategy for ADP is a lot of words. And ultimately, what that means is myself, my team, we are responsible for putting together the programs, the products, different processes, and how we can provide value to specifically the accounting community. There are other channels, we’re responsible for some of our executive bank relationships, we work with brokers alike, but over 60% of our business comes in through the accountant, community like people like yourself on so I think my number one responsibility is that came into this role about four years ago was Do not Mess That Up. This is such an important community to ADP, you know the value that we provide the service that we provide the products that we you know, offer to you and your clients, you know, our team’s responsibility is to keep that at a very high level, if not always exceeding expectations. So happy to be here to talk about what we’re hearing and seeing and feeling, you know, within this profession today. Um, and from there, you never know, with our conversations which direction I’m looking forward to.

Dawn Brolin 2:32
I know you know, we’ll we’re always entertaining Aaron, I haven’t have a blast all the time. That’s how we roll. And so ADP is part of Team Roland team role and having our full All Star tech stack of, you know, these are all the positions we have in our firm to run our firm. These are all the applications that we recommend to our clients. And of course, so ADP is number one. I’m disappointed a little bit the fact that when I asked ADP what they want, I’m not surprised by any stretch of the imagination, but which is your favorite baseball team. And of course, Erron and Amy, they’re all I don’t I don’t know what kind of drugs they take on a regular basis. But they’re all about the Yankees, right? Yankee Spanky. So we’ll just get that out of them.

Erron Stark 3:13
You can just grab yourselves and team Brolin, I think that, you know, it gives us a good start. So let’s not get into that, because you…

Dawn Brolin 3:23
It’s so fun. No, you know, and that’s one of the things like we just are trying to make this whole program, the podcast, all of the all star lineup. And that because we will we want to do is help my fellow accounting colleagues, my professionals realize that we have the ability to teach our clients how to run their businesses in a way that we run our businesses. And with that, we want to make sure that we’re implementing best practices, the most value add that we can provide to the client. And that’s one of the reasons why ADP is just a homerun, they’re, you know, they’re the homerun team, a homerun player on my team. I mean, they give me the ability to service my clients, monitor activity within my clients to analyze and things like that. And so I just for me, it’s not, there’s just no comparison to what ADP provides my firm and my clients for service. But, Erron, okay, we were at Engage, right? And we were, it was wonderful to see people that was like, so important to get around each other, to learn from each other to be a look in each other’s eyes again, you know, and so tell me a little bit about your experience at Engage and what did you see from the practitioners and what’s the what’s the hype?

Erron Stark 4:33
Yeah, so finally getting to interat in person, which was amazing. I think it’s, it’s interesting to see since the last thing that we’re in person, and obviously many, many conversations, virtual conversations over the last, you know, 16-18 months, however long its been, losing track, but the reality is everybody’s been talking about and like two different paths, right, you have this thing on top of it. legislative changes path, which you just have to as the frontline, the frontline for every SMB client that’s out there, and where they’re looking for advice and guidance on how to navigate through that. So you have that piece which you don’t necessarily control, which is very taxing and time consuming. And all the regulations regulatory compliance on this report, and then you have, you know, this continuous evolution of advisory services. And I put air quotes in here, because I feel like everybody’s got it like a different definition of it. But no matter how you define it, right, it’s a combination of leveraging technology, leveraging data, being able to present it in an articulate form to your clients that will help and enable them to grow. And hopefully, this is a, you know, a cocktail of all the different definitions that exist out there. But I think one of the things that I learned, and I’ve heard this in a couple of different conversations, not just an engagement leading up to engages, yes, I understand it’s right. And yes, I’ve started to see and learn more about what’s available to me. But I still don’t know how to actually capitalize on it, like, there still seems to be a certain level of hesitation on because people are in the sensitive state, like, how do I profit from the cutaway product? Guys? How do I monetize it. Um, and I think that’s something that, you know, the firm’s that we’re working with, some have figured it out that, you know, definitely on the more progressive side, because they understand the value to it, and how it differentiates them from, you know, the accountant, the advisor, the practitioner down the block, and then there are a lot that just don’t understand how their clients are going to react to it. And it’s giving them a little bit of pause. So, you know, from an ADP standpoint, I think that, you know, we help definitely with some of the technology elements and the tech stack that we can provide to give that data that intelligence, but we’re we’re looking to continuously evolve based on the feedback that we’re hearing is, how can we either develop or partner with, you know, those entities, and that can actually help a firm understand how I can monetize this, how I can introduce it to my clients, where they don’t feel threatened by it, where I’m trying to gouge them during a very sensitive time, versus this is a valued service that is going to enhance your business. And as you are trying to grow your practice. So am I and we’re in this together. Right? Like, I think that that’s something that we’re still trying to figure out. I don’t know if I have it fully laid out just yet. But hopefully, that’s a good summary of what we’re seeing what we’re hearing.

Dawn Brolin 7:28
And you know, Heather and I talk a lot when I spoke with her the other day, we were talking about, you know, the whole concept of the benchmarks of what are other and we use restaurants as an example. We know right now that employers are really struggling finding employees, finding people who want to work, we won’t get political about it, but it just is what it is. Right? So with saying that, what the solution or a resource that ADP is able to provide you as a practitioner through the accountant Connect portal, is that benchmarking? What are people getting paid in Boston, Massachusetts as a server? What are they getting paid? And, you know, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, wherever, wherever your clients are with loves, ADP has data from everywhere. And I think that that’s one of the things right now, when you listen to your clients say, Hey, listen, I’m struggling with hiring employees, I can’t get people. What do I do? Well, one of the first things you can do is go into your account, connect resource and go check and see what the comparatives across the country or wherever your clients located for the similar for a similar type of business, and figure out maybe your way underpaying people, it’s totally possible, but you don’t know if you don’t have the resources. And that’s, I think the most important thing to me are the resources that I can tap into the PPP loan, you guys crushed, that, you know, the reporting and the things that we needed to report in for forgiveness, and things like that. And guess what people that’s still going on today’s PPP loan close with it was end of May the second round, there’s still reporting requirements that you’re going to be required to provide. And if you’re just not able to pop those reports out, you know, I’m sorry, but you got to you’ve got to look at something to do something different. And so, you know, talk about if you can era just talk a little bit about what you’re seeing from a hiring perspective, because you guys obviously see all of the industry statistics and the reporting that comes out about that. What are what are you seeing out there with regards to employee retention or even hiring.

Erron Stark 9:27
I want to be really, cause I feel like media, medium without hearing and seeing some of the statistics and the sensitivity around you know, having to retain employees and the taxing exercise that that that includes and listen to the bits that are most important asset are people but people are calling this current time the Great Resignation, 40% of employees are considering leaving their current employer because there’s a there’s a premium out there. cause the amount of jobs that continue to stay open 9 million jobs, right that they’re open right now in the economy. And as good as the jobs reports have been as far as filling them, like there’s an attrition that’s taking place, it’s opening up more, and then there’s just been this big void. And they can see that has built over the past year and a half, that is going to take some time for us to get back to. So employers are taking extreme measures to offer hiring bonuses, premium benefits, different experiences, whether that’s, you know, hiring bonuses or equity within their firms like there is a variety of different tactics that they need to differentiate themselves from the competition or attract them away from their current employer. So everybody’s playing this offense defense game. And to your point that comp benchmarking is what really does differentiated versus some of the other datasets that are out there is that it’s it’s built off of real time intelligence, where you can go look at some of the job boards, and you can go and look at some of the other datasets, but they are an aggregation of information that took place last month, last quarter or last year, based on those different jobs, or potentially what people are being offered in a job board. Right, like what’s on the actual adopters. But that doesn’t necessarily correlate to what people are getting paid and offered at the end state. So what our information does is we’re aggregating and anonymizing 30 million plus employees across the domestic US. And then we’re pulling that in by industry, by geography by job tied by tenure. And that’s what people are getting paid right now. Right? The second and if you take that, and you start to expand it with this, you know, another piece of attracting and hiring talent right now, is the flexibility optionality, when it comes to where you’re going to work, and how often you’re going to work, right? Like you’ve seen many companies instituting four day workweeks, or your instance being you only have to come to the office three days a week, or not ever come to the office at all. So people have relocated from New York, Florida, from Florida to California, from Texas to wherever. And just heard about somebody moving to Montana sounds glorious, like the reality is, what what you’re paying for talent that used to live in New York City, the cost of living is not the same in Montana, right, and being able to have the tools to pivot quickly are, I mean, you could say that that’s important, right? And a differentiator for not just us for the firm, but the firm to that client, right to be able to, you know, identify that. And then all these pieces to get off this model up here, I guess, is also taking a look at the clients that are reaching out to you or one cohort, right? Like that’s one group of people that are proactively reaching out to their advisors, and asking them for a level of consultation and how to navigate this. Is it every client? I promise you, it’s probably not right. It’s not like you have 100 clients, maybe 50 are doing that. Me too, right. But the other 50, the other 98, you have to assume that some of this is taking place within their organizations as well. And if they’re not reaching out to you, it’s either a, they don’t know the questions to ask, ie, they don’t know that you have services or solutions to help me or see the worst answer. They’re going somewhere else for, right. And it’s that some or else that should be just something top of mind for the accounting profession, because everybody’s trying to create these robust suites, where I offer this, and this This, in essence, right. And some of those other this is, we hope and fingers crossed that they’re not going to be accounting services. So Right. So and what we’ve done to take offense to that with our accounting partners in accounting Connect is the new insights application, which actually shows you which clients are adding employees, which clients might have attrition, which clients are opening up or have multiple jurisdictions that they’re adding to their payroll, who should be leading indicators that you could take a proactive measure with your clients pick up the phone and say, I just saw that you added 35 employees over the last 90 days, that’s awesome. But are you putting in the infrastructure to help support them to help retain them, right? So you can stabilize this growth if not accelerated, moving forward? Or the adverse which is, hey, I’ve seen that you lost him people over the last month or two, what’s causing that? Maybe it’s the compensation piece to your point where I’m overpaying, which, you know, maybe that’s not the worst thing, but what if you’re underpaid? And now they’re talking them off the right because you were going off of a different model that 18 months ago made sense, but today is not the same.

Dawn Brolin 14:50
Yeah, and I think that that again, we always talk about adding value, which everybody always talks about adding value and I think, in our accounting profession now, we’ve got to do that more than we ever need. And did before more of thinking outside of the box, not doing the same thing where, like you said, somebody is adding employees? Are they, you know, should they be adding different benefits? Are they let’s say the add employees they have 401k? is did you offer the 401k? To your new people? Did they sign up? Do you have the, you know, they don’t want to sign up? So did you have that letter that says no, I’m opting out? Those kind of like labor force issues that the client may not be thinking of as they’re growing? That Okay, listen, we got to take a look at this, or we got to take a look at that. We got to say, Hey, listen, wait a minute, what if we have employee retention, tax credit, things that we need to address, things that they’re not necessarily thinking of? And, you know, maybe sometimes we’re not thinking of them. But when you relieve yourself from performing services, that are not a value add, and you stop doing those things, and you start moving over to, hey, we got to take a look at this, you know, maybe they’re a new client, maybe they’re, you know, we I got a lot of new clients last year, did I sit down with every single one of them and go, Okay, do you? Do you qualify for the employee retention credit? Do you have tip credits, you have this, like, those have to be in the forefront of our minds. But if I’m focused so much on the performance of payroll, or the integration, or the journal entries on making, which that’s a whole nother ballgame, I lose sight of the value added things I could be doing for that. And I think that that’s my point about about partnering with a solution provider that gives more than just that payroll, blah, blah, blah, it gives you that bigger picture to have conversations with your client that they need to hear. They don’t even know they need to hear them, but they do. And so I think that that’s, you know, been a really great thing. So Aaron, so tell me, for the next, let’s say a year, what is the plan to help to help put these other types of tools in place? And what’s the vision of ADP from a solution providing perspective or support perspective for accounting professionals? That you can tell us about?

Erron Stark 17:01
Yeah, yeah, year, for sure. We keep a couple in the vault. I think it will just continue to be released. We serve up our information to our firms, right. And the feedback that we go we that we’ve already heard. And by the way, it goes without saying, but all of the tools and resources that we develop that we partner with us is is all from solicitation and feedback we get from the kind of community like so our Advisory Board, which you are obviously in the member of, but just the general accounting profession, you know, we continuously reach out to ask, what are the things we can continue to do in order for not just the graded need to be to be the preferred provider, but also to add value, right like to help us professionally and you saw that in what was done during the height of the pandemic and the PPP that you mentioned before. So, you know, we have those tools and resources, feedback through accountant connected, if you see something, say something, right, like we’re always keeping our eyes and ears open. But I think where we’re focused on right now is, again, making sure that we have some of those tools and resources readily available to help navigate the regulatory compliance, because we don’t see that going down. Unfortunately, or fortunately, anytime soon, like some people do benefit from this ever changing landscape, right? You know, it sometimes leads to profitability. But then on the flip side is what am what we really excited about? How do we take this data? How do we take this intelligence and make it actionable, right, where we can actually take that information as opposed to looking at it and looking for it, which is step number one, and we’re there, which is super exciting. But imagine a world where we can take that and proactively provided to you to then proactively provide it to your client. And I’ll use just a quick example. employer hires an employee in a state that has a required mandate for a retirement vehicle. And they do not have one in place today, imagine that a notification goes off, which again, you can look and find this data today, but you’re gonna have to search a little bit. But imagine if just with a snap of a finger ADP is notifying you to say you have a client out of compliance up the hero. And by the way, here’s a solution set that you can easily tap into whether or not you want to use it or not, doesn’t matter. Like, here’s what’s happening, what they should be doing, and solutions if you’re not looking to scour the internet.

Dawn Brolin 19:34
Yeah, and you know, honestly, that’s, that’s the type of thing that, you know, I complained one time I had a client who didn’t have workers comp, they were in New York City, and if you are from New York, and you don’t have workers comp, you know, I got a bill comes through the New York State kind of like goes right at you right for your jugular. But it was like she added one employee and I wasn’t really thinking like, I’m not their insurance agent, right? And so later down line, they get the notice they’re like, you know, you set up payroll, why didn’t you set up workers comp? And I’m like, oh, like it was like a light bulb came on in my head that Oh, I do have to be the insurance agent. Not really. But I have to be the one who says, hey, you know, do you have workers comp in New York City for New York for this employee? Because New York’s pretty, pretty rough about workers comp. And so really, it was at the end of the day, it was my failure in a way that I wasn’t paying enough attention. But, but having ADP say to me, Oh, hey, so and so just add an employee in New York? And hey, do they have workers comp? Do they have you know, do they have a withholding number set up? Are they registered in New York to be able to pay in New York employee? Things like that, that we need to be that person who is thinking forward for the client? And not just be the person? Oh, yeah, they’re on, okay, they got somebody on payroll looks like their payroll went up. And oh, that, you know, it’s in the accounting, who cares? Because really, the clients need us for more than that. And so the more that we can, again, not set them up on insurance, necessarily, unless you’re doing a worker’s comp pay as you go. But even just liability insurance or things like that, that the client has no clue they need this stuff. They don’t have any idea. They go to an attorney, typically, the attorney sets up the entity. And then that attorney is all done. Well, the attorney didn’t think about that they have liability insurance, do they have this all their job was to register their you know, entity, and get them an EIN, they think that’s where it ends? Well, that’s where it begins. And so the more tools and things like that when it comes to the payroll regulations that ADP can provide to the practitioner, and that’s what ADP has been doing. And I think, from a motivation perspective to take action, which is really what this whole podcast is about motivation, turning into action. And that’s what we want, I don’t want to motivate you, and then I’ll be your goal. And you’re like, Oh, that was great. No, it’s like, okay, what am I going to do with the information I learned? I’m going to go do something about it. And so I think that you know, what ADP has in the pipeline is exactly what we need. But I want to I want to go a little bit to your personal side, Aaron, a little bit over here, which will be unexpected, that’s fair. But I want to hear about what motivates Aaron Stark, what, what motivates you to get up every day and do what you do? And I know, you’re gonna tell me, it’s because of people like me, and you love us. And I get all that what I’ve thought about Erron Stark, like, tell me a little bit about that.

Erron Stark 22:17
Yeah. So there’s, there’s two sides of me, the get me up every day and push me probably more than anything. So it’s, what is obvious is my family, right? So father of three, my wife of going out almost 12 years come September, you know, there’s really nothing that I wouldn’t do to put them in a better positioned than I ever had growing up. Um, and, you know, so that’s, that’s first and foremost. But I’m also a very competitive individual, like growing up in a sales organization, put myself through college doing sales. Like, I am always looking at ways in which, you know, myself, my team is exceeding expectations, like when I put on my GPS in the morning, and it says, I’m gonna get to the office at 7:30, I kind of look at it and I drop an expletive. And I say, I’m going to be there at 7:15 right? Like that. That’s either my competitive nature or my psychosis, I’ll let you choose. But you know, it’s just that drive of, you know, never been content with, you know, what it is that we’re doing. And part of what attracted me to ADP is that I think it’s built into our DNA and the fabric of organization, but it’s only five years in the business of, you know, always looking to exceed our expectations and outperform, you know, what our partners, our clients, you know, are looking for an ADP, are we always perfect? No, right? Not, nor am I as a as a human being. But I think when you balance those two sides of the equation, right, having something that grounds you in my family, but then this this, this desire to always be getting better, right? Like, no matter what that is, those are my motivational factors.

Dawn Brolin 23:58
And I love that that’s, you know, that’s, for me, it’s my big motivation right now, at least in my in my professional world is to help other practitioners, but also my clients, I got an error. And this is actually kind of like a timing thing. But I had a client email me this morning, and I finished their tax return and they’re like, can you please split the cost of the taxpayer and two payments, and I’m like, not a problem they’ve been a client for many, many years. I know, you know, I know, they’re good for it type of thing. And I, you know, I make very, very few exceptions to that to the rule of getting paid. But she emailed me and she said, I’ve not told anybody this, but I can’t tell you how much I’m struggling with my family doesn’t know. Nobody knows. My family has been depending on me for 20 years to provide for the family. And I’m just burnt out. I don’t even I can’t sleep at night. And so from a motivation perspective, immediately going into the DM mode, mindset mode. That’s where I go immediately when I hear something like that. It’s like whoa, stop everything. Right, we’re here for a bigger purpose than to process payroll. What we are here to do is to serve clients and give them value, but also understand their where they are as a human. And the work. I mean, I can’t say enough, it’s the worst time from a mental perspective for people. And so the more that I can streamline production in my company, whether it’s through tax returns, things like that, but having the streamlined technologies that I utilize, allow me to stop and say, hey, when can I call you like, this is too important. I don’t care about your money. None of that matters, but the people do. And that’s, at the end of the day, what we’re really about. And so yeah, your family is your motivator, were you and I, Aaron, we are both competitive, we will, we will fight til death bleed to death. We don’t neither of us care, we’re competitive. But at the end of the day, it’s that human that I’m sure you’ve had so many interactions with practitioners who are in a position that they’re just struggling mentally, or from whatever perspective and I think, you know, hopefully, this DM mindset will help people step back a little bit and treat each other more like humans and not robots, and, you know, the efficiency and the resources. And all those things are great, we need them in our practice, so that we can address the more important things which are each other. And so, you know, that’s kind of, you know, I’ll give you I want you to give me last thoughts on that, just kind of on that concept.

Erron Stark 26:27
So, I, I love your, your mission right now kind of find the right word to encapsulate what it is that you’re doing. But it’s a mission, right like this, you know, this motivational elements of what you’re trying to bring is probably a little bit different than what you’ve heard or seen within your profession, right here for many years. Tom, from a historical lens, you naturally get into this proactive lens, but you’re adding in this different dynamic of that motivational factor, which brings in that human component to it. Because I do think that everybody needs a reminder of like, when you ask him this question, what does motivate you had? Because there are some challenging times right now, like we’re still working from home in certain instances. And, you know, not every conversation has this positive outlook on it, there’s probably more of those than we care to admit in certain instances. But like, honing in on what does motivate us, right? And what got us to that point where we were happy and potentially not, you know, reminding ourselves every day, I think is a testament to you know, what you’re bringing to market right now. And you know, the conversations that you’re having, I’m happy, I’m privileged to be a part of it. So thank you for letting me here today. Looking forward to the next one. I remember the first time we did this was in that dingy conference room with a microphone in front of your face, and I wasn’t sure what was happening. But here we are a couple years later, and the conversation just keep getting better and better. Dawn, so goes out with Thank you, and, go Yankees. And just kidding. I look forward to speaking to you soon. This is awesome.

Dawn Brolin 28:01
Absolutely Erron, thank you again, so much. And thank you everybody for listening to VM disruption. We’ll be back again next week for another episode. We’re here to just try to support all of you in whatever way we can. And ADP is definitely a partner that I call my family as part of my team. And critical toast to the growth of powerful accounting. So thank you again, Aaron, and we’ll be talking to you soon so stay out of trouble. Go Red Sox.

I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

Transcribed by

Episode Summary

Jirav’s Martin Zych and ADP’s Rhonda Shurter discuss their recent partnership on this week’s episode of The DM Disruption, LIVE from the ADP booth at Scaling New Heights 2021! Tune in to hear more about how Jirav’s forward thinking of financial planning and analysis will take advisory services to the next level, with ADP.

Martin’s Introduction

Martin talks about his experience as an outsource CFO and controller and how he would help companies build financial models to better understand their business. After a few years, he realized there was no platform to leave Excel, and wanted to find a way to move programs to the cloud.

What is FP&A?

FP&A, Financial Planning and Analysis, helps people understand the unit economics of the business. 

Martin talks about his goal with an FP&A is for businesses to have the ability to see where your business may be next month; this includes being able to see cash, revenue, hiring costs, and other areas of financial assets to allow companies to make the right decision to ensure financial stability. 

Martin also explains how using an FP&A allows businesses to spend less time in Excel, and more time on improving the success of their business.

Jirav’s Analytics Around People and Workforce

Martin talks about how expensive it can be to hire new employees, and how many business owners don’t have the ability to foresee the additional cost even one new employee can have. Jirav allows companies to access this information, and delivers accurate financial data so business owners can make informed hiring decisions, whether that means they should hire more staff, or focus on employee retention. 

Jirav’s Partnership with ADP

Rhonda discusses how ADP strives to empower practitioners to be better advisors, and supplies them with the data to do so. Partnering with Jirav allows ADP to take their services to the next level, allowing them to deepen the amount of data they are able to provide to their clients, which in turn allows businesses to make better choices to help them succeed in the future.


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Dawn Brolin 0:01
Hello everyone and welcome to the DM disruption. I’m the host Dawn Brolin. I’m a certified public accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and the author of the designated motivator. We’re here to help motivate you to take your practice to the next level. Have you considered outsourcing your clients payroll? Well, I did and I went with ADP. The resources they provide, along with their partner program become the premier outsourcing Payroll solution. We as practitioners already deal with a ton of compliance. Keeping Up With payroll isn’t a value added solution that I should be focused on. If you’ve considered outsourcing before, reconsider it today. Choose ADP to be part of your starting lineup.

Well, hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of DM disruption. We’re here live at Scaling New Heights. 2021. Super excited. And today we have on the most amazing Martin Zych .You know, I practice before I kicked it, but this time I did not. It’s all good. I’m excited to have him on today from Jirav. And we’re here also with Rhonda Shurter with ADP. And we’re excited to talk to you about how Jirav is now working with ADP. But before we do that, we want to learn a little bit about you, Martin, tell us how you got started and why draw what happened.

Martin Zych 1:22
So like many people here, I used to be an outsourced CFO and controller, so it helps companies build financial models and understand your business. You know, I was doing this for years. And, you know, there’s a point where I realized that like, there’s no platform to get out of excel and to do this delightfully in the cloud. So kind of fast forward a couple years, we’ve now built up this great platform. And we’re excited to partner with ADP as well, because that’s a key part of doing the financial forecasting.

Dawn Brolin 1:51
Absolutely, we’re definitely gonna get into that. Now, as far as job goes, like you said, people are still in Excel. And you know what, I’m sorry, but I’m just not an Excel expert. I can do some formulas here and there, maybe a little separate the text if I have to add other columns, but really, it’s cumbersome. And because of open API’s on like with ADP, and with QuickBooks Online and all these other applications that you’re connecting with, you’re able to get that data faster, and more efficiently. Now, certainly F PNa. Right. So we talked about FP and a lot of people don’t know what that means, right? So why don’t you explain to us what is FPNA?

Martin Zych 2:27
So FP&A is financial planning and analysis. And the whole point of this is really understanding like, where you know, where accounting ends is where finance starts. So that’s like a really good definition for finance and finances all the forward looking inside of that. So within an FP&A, we help folks understand really like the unit economics of the business, all the things that, you know, happen before it hits the bucks on that side. So these are things like personnel, customers, you know, all the unit economics around that, understanding the ratios, the KPIs, and how this all ties together in the whole business.

Dawn Brolin 3:02
One of the things I love, you know, as I’ve gone through some presentations with you, and seeing how Gerard is working forward. So we do look a lot historically, in accounting, we’re always looking for what just happened the last year, and then can we figure out what might happen? You guys are really forward thinking, right? And so that is an area that is so important to the accounting industry, because clients already know what happened in the past, and they don’t want to hear about that anymore. What they want to do is have something to look forward to. And so what are we projecting from revenue? And that’s, I think, one of the key things when it comes to advisory work, right? And so that’s what you’re focused in on.

Martin Zych 3:36
Yep, exactly. Like, our whole goal is to help you be able to see, you know, where’s your business can be next month, next quarter next year, and really have that clear line of sight on that. And that, you know, that’s across revenue across cash across everything, every single aspect there.

Dawn Brolin 3:51
And so when you’re working with practitioners, right, like myself, and you’re saying, Hey, listen, this is a tool that you can use to do those types of things. Because at the end of the day, the industries are changing the industry itself. It’s not keep punching transactions anymore. And we need to move into and we, we sometimes get, like, I don’t know, stuck in our own world that we’re like, well, that’s how we’ve always done things which Hello, that’s the definition of insanity. Just in case you’re wondering, because you’re certainly expecting different results. But here, what you’re providing is an ability for practitioners to take the step to advisory without having to put this whole you know, Excel spreadsheet together and put these man hours or woman hours. I don’t care who you are. Right. So to put that in, you already have that in place for us.

Martin Zych 4:35
Yep, exactly like you now in order to build up like a financial model, which is already hard. Like, I think all of us in the accounting and finance profession. We’ve seen the big 15 cab crazy Excel file. You’re bringing in all this different data. There’s like only one person at the company who kind of knows how it works, right to do that. We just walked it off the plank. You never have to see that. Again. We’ve really democratized finance right taking care of all the hard parts and then let you just focus on the input so that you can project out your assumptions on business.

Dawn Brolin 5:06
So tell me about the cost of our people. Right? So we have, in most, almost every service industry, people are the most expensive and, and I know that, you know, we talk about how the machines have done the work with the people behind it. But now it’s people in technology. And so you do a lot. And we’re gonna get into the relationship that you have with ADP, which is just mind blowing, the amount, the ability to have those financial forecasts and analytics right at your fingertips. So tell me about how Jirav is gonna, how you guys are gonna just put that right out for us. And so we can help analyze that workforce, the cost of the workforce itself?

Martin Zych 5:41
Yeah, so like, the analytics around people is really interesting, because, you know, there’s so many moving pieces in our business, and especially in small business, you know, like, the impact of having a few more heads here or there can you know, make or break whether you’re profitable or not? And really understanding when do you hire, and when’s the right time is critical. So like, one of the key things that we found really successful. And this is, you know, even if you’re just trying to like delve into, like, how do I start advisor how to get into the very basics is make like a human income statement. So I take like, average revenue per employee, average cogs or gross profit per employee, average optics per employee in average income, and when you start showing it in that, that level, and if you want to get fancy, maybe you do it by team or department Sure, you normalize these KPIs like that, and bring it all together. And people can really quickly see like, like, Oh, my, you know, I hired too much, my average revenue per employee is too low, and I’m going to start dipping, if I get that one extra one really upside down, or maybe your your staff is working too hard, you’re getting, you know, your average revenue per employee is too high, that actually isn’t always great. It can mean you’re working people too hard, and you should hire people. And understanding that that’s like a really, really good post on the business that you can do really quickly and have a good strategic discussion.

Dawn Brolin 6:59
And I love that because I did read your blog posts about that. And what I found intriguing about it was, I know for us when the clients like I think I need to hire more people, this they say to me, I think I need to hire more people, I don’t know, I need to hire more people. And with this ability to get these analytics will not just tell you, Oh, it doesn’t feel like I need to financially, I can see where I do, I need to increase or reduce my staff. And so that’s what you’re working with ADP. So let’s let’s shift over to this, because this relationship is like, gets me giggly, I’m not going to lie. Because I think what ADP has to offer, what we can pull out of it is even more powerful. And we know that knowledge is power. Right? So Rhonda? Yes. Tell us about the strategic partnership with your OB, you know, what are your thoughts behind that? And what was the drive to do this?

Rhonda Shurter 7:47
Yeah, so you know, client insights and insights and driving data that can empower practitioners to be better advisors be more proactive to help interpret the data has been, you know, part something that’s really important to ADP and something we’re pushing forward in accounting, connect more and more and partnering with durab. And other partners, is another way for us to take it to the next level, right. So we can provide the compensation benchmarking industry insights and information about the payroll data and what’s going on with the client. But you’re asking to get to the next level, right to really deepen the data that you get, and you can advise your clients.

Dawn Brolin 8:34
And I love that because really, at the end of the day, you know, I’ve had this whole theory that we’re all playing in the same sandbox. And for those that do best at payroll solutions, and, and you guys have gone above and beyond a payroll company, because you offer like you said, benchmarking industry, reasonable compensation, those things that we need that data to be the best trusted advisor we can be, but you don’t have to do it all yourself. And so this strategic partnership says, Hey, Rhonda, his team doesn’t have to write this analytics tools and stuff within accountant Connect, you go right to giraffe, even right from accounting connect as a matter of fact, and you can get to the tools you need to analyze your data.

Rhonda Shurter 9:13
Exactly. So just another way to make it seamless and integrated and easy for you to really take the data to the next level and leverage it the way that you need to deserve your clients.

Dawn Brolin 9:23
Absolutely. And so So how is this relationship working out for you? Okay?

Martin Zych 9:27
it’s going awesome.

Dawn Brolin 9:28
It’s going on. So you must love the collaboration. So you’re not just having an internal team collaboration. Now you have an extended part of your company technically.

Martin Zych 9:36
There’s so much like energy surrounding all this. I’m like, super, super excited about everything. Yeah.

Rhonda Shurter 9:42
Yea, very excited about.

Dawn Brolin 9:43
That’s awesome. Well, I’m thrilled to have had you on this podcast today. These guys are making it happen. All you have to do is ProAdvisor which by the way, how’s this lady doing over here? Look how funny she looks right next to my head like she’s sitting there. But anyway, I mean, just this is a relationship that we all need to capitalize on because at the end of the day, The transactional accountant is not going to be around much longer. And so just like the wave of getting in the cloud and all this stuff that we’ve been talking about for 10 or 15 years, if you miss that don’t miss this one like, this is where it’s time to take advisory to the next level. And if we’ve learned nothing over the last 18 months with COVID, the business owners need us to be able to predict the future as best we can. With data that’s live time. And that’s what drove and at peace partnership is going to do for you. So for everyone that’s listening, I’m telling you right now, you better get on this train because it’s leaving the station. So now’s the time. But think Martin, thank you so much for taking your time CEO of Jirav, Rhonda Shurter, who basically does everything at ADP and runs it. That’s what I say you know if you want something done for Rhonda, but again, so thank you everyone for listening, and we look forward to seeing you the next time on the next em disruption. Thank you so much for being here. I hope you enjoy this podcast. Feel free to visit in order to motivate you to improve your practice. Wishing you all the best. Have a great day.

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